HONOLULU — The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii released a preliminary report that claims nearly half of the people in Hawaii’s jails remain incarcerated because they are unable to post bail.
The union’s report released Wednesday said the state’s bail system, as presently constructed, threatens their civil liberties.
The study concluded that pre-trial detainees in Honolulu wait in jail an average of 71 days, primarily because they cannot pay to get out while they wait for a trial date.
Former prosecutor Peter Carlisle disputed the union’s findings, saying the state of Hawaii has had “huge success in criminal law.”
“We have one of the lowest violent crime rates anywhere so is that a system that’s broken?” Carlisle said.
The report is the result of an ongoing, statewide investigation and analysis of the state’s bail-setting practices and how it affects families and communities.
The union studied bail-setting practices during the first six months of 2017. Researchers found circuit courts in Hawaii set bail money as a condition of release in 88 percent of cases, though only 44 percent of those people managed to eventually post the amount set by the court.
“Bail doesn’t have to be money,” said Joshua Wisch, executive director of the ACLU of Hawaii. “Bail can be things like sending someone home to the custody of their relatives or having them check in. Other jurisdictions have had luck with things such as just sending reminders to people.”
The Criminal Pretrial Task Force created by the Hawaii Legislature is reviewing current practices. Members will come up with their findings and recommendations before next year’s legislative session.