Homeless; New Prison Problems

The UH graph shows how long Hawaii’s homeless have resided in the Islands

I sympathize with Mayor Kirk Caldwell, who has to do a political balancing act between those who want the homeless off our sidewalks and parks and the über-compassionate who would let them be.

There’s no workable triage system to detect who’s on temporary hard times, who’s got mental issues and who’s merely a shiftless shirker or Mainlander who prefers our weather.

If it were all about finding cheap rentals for those temporarily on hard times, I’d throw myself 100 percent into the mayor’s “Housing First” plan. But nearly 80 percent of our homeless have mental or addiction problems. They’ve refused shelters. Will there be landlords to take them in? We’ll see. I don’t want to shoot down sincere efforts.

I get very mad at:

* those strapping young men on Kalakaua Avenue with their signs “Need Money For Pot” or “Hungry And Need Food,”

* that expatriate Oregon father and two daughters who said “that’s cruel that the mayor won’t let us stay here on the beach,”

* those Beltrans who seemed to feel that Mokuleia Beach Park was their God-given home-land,

* permanent campers who invaded the two Paki Avenue parks and took over the restrooms and best shade,

* and then there’s that fake homeless gang calling itself (de)Occupy Honolulu. Sheesh!

The population at our four state prisons runs between 5,000 and 6,000. We’re reducing that and those held at for-hire prisons in Kentucky and Arizona.

We’re tinkering with release supervision in lieu of unaffordable bail, letting some out early, and we give drug offenders second chances in our HOPE court.

City prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro isn’t on board for less prison time. He has said: “How can we look at getting guys out? That shouldn’t be the focus.

The focus should always be: How do we maintain public safety?”

I think most of us want killers, rapists, kidnappers, robbers, thieves, burglars, heavy-drug merchants and serious assaulters put away. Probation not an option.

To do that we need a large, new prison. We should impanel a group to select a site just as we did for picking a new city landfill. Once we satisfy public-safety concerns by locking up major felons, we turn to the lesser criminals in both the felony and misdemeanor categories.

If somebody commits a crime that doesn’t directly hurt anyone but himself (drug use without other crimes), it’s spinning the system’s wheels to prosecute and imprison. Much can be dealt with through something less than prison. Supervision, probation or sometimes just a stern warning.

I support three-strikes-and-goodbye. I’d say two. We can’t turn a blind eye to repeat offenders.

That New York City experiment under former police commissioner William Bratton showed that scofflaws tend to move up the criminal ladder.

Just “shame on you, don’t do that again” isn’t working.