Mobilize with us: Hawaii Correctional System Oversight Commission (September 2023)

September 19, 2023

We mobilize to the monthly Hawaii Correctional Systems Oversight Commission (HCSOC, or "the Commission") meetings in order to advance our goals and provide public input and testimony. Faith Pods, kupuna releases, more Pu’uhonuas not new prisons or jails—these are our aloa to genuine security and healthy collective future. We support plans for a future that recognizes and increases the dignity and health of our incarcerated ‘ohana.

Join us each month at HCSOC. Information on the HCSOC meeting and how to join, below.

Ohana Ho’opakele goals:


1) Bring our kūpuna home from prison; support increased compassionate release and sentencing reforms (such as eliminating mandatory minimum sentences) that facilitate release of kūpuna from Hawaii prisons and jails.


2) Implement Faith Pods based on kapu aloha


3) Implement Act 117 and open one Pu'uhonua

Why now?

Hawaii is in a state of urgent crisis in its prison and jail system. In Hawaii’s prisons and jails, there are intersecting crises of high rates of Covid-19, crowding (populations over-capacity of facility design, also called “overcrowding”), and lack of adequate emergency preparedness plans and conditions. Crowding stems from a number of causes, including a classification system which is far too punitive, extensive use of pretrial detention, harsh sentences and long mandatory minimums (an obstacle for compassionate release for kupuna), a dysfunctional re-entry system, punitive release conditions, and the reliance on imprisonment to address what are actually social, economic and political problems. The high rates of Covid-19 inside are compounded with the vulnerable kupuna population, described above in social inequity.

The crisis is even acknowledged on a state level through the creation of the Hawaii Correctional Oversight Commission (HCSOC) in 2019 (which became staffed and functional in 2022-2023). Source:



Thursday, September 21, 2023 – Monthly Commission Meeting

Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DLIR)
830 Punchbowl Street, Room 310
Honolulu, Hawaiʻi 96813
Time: 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.


·       Agenda (link)

·       September Oversight Coordinator Report (coming soon)


Meeting ID: 964 1109 6050




Website updates

September 19, 2023
Aloha, we are currently in the process of updating our website. Please stay tuned for more information. Mahalo for your patience.
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Sign petition to transfer Van Keoki Kahumoku to Kulani!

December 11, 2016

Please take a minute to sign this petition to transfer Van Keoki Kahumolu to Kulani Correctional Facility on Hawaii Island to help him heal and have friends be able to visit him!
To sign online, go to

We appreciate this!

Help him have a great Christmas present!...

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Is There an Uneven Administration of Justice for Native Hawaiians in Hawai`i?

October 17, 2015

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Ohana Ho`opakele statement on SB3119, Pu`uhonua for Kulani

February 5, 2014


Senator Will Espero, Chair

Senator Rosalyn H. Baker, Vice Chair

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

3:45 pm

State Capitol, Conference Room 224




Appropriates out of the general revenues of the State of Hawaii the sum of $20,520,000 or so much thereof as may be necessary for fiscal year 20140-2015 for correctional rehabilitative programs authorize...

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Ohana Ho`opakele Statement on Kulani Draft Environmental Assessment

March 2, 2013

Ohana Ho`opakele Final Statement on Draft Environmental Assessment

on Reactivation of Kulani Correctional Facility, February 5, 2013


Ohana Ho`opakele finds the Draft Environmental Assessment, “Reactivation of Kulani Correctional Facility: District of South Hilo, Island of Hawai’i” of November 9, 2012 grossly inadequate.  The Final Environmental Assessment should include the following laws and documents which have legal ramifications on the land and facility being ...

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Puuhonua, a poem by Uncle Joe Tassill

May 6, 2012


            By Renwick Valentine Ili Ilipuna “Uncle Joe” Tassill


when ever you did wrong

cause you couldn't get along

there was a place to go



when things weren't going your way

and you knew you could not stay

there was a place to go



when things with you weren't right

and you had to run take flight

there was a place to go



from the mountain to the sea

there was no place to flee

the only place to be


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Latest report on Closing Makahiki Ceremony

February 17, 2012
Aloha Kakou, Ohana Ho'opakele,                                                         

Reporting on our visit to the Arizona Na Pa'ahao, February 6 thru 13, 2012:

Again, we are back Kaiana and I from doing the Closing Makahiki Ceremonies at Arizona Saguaro Prison (State of Hawai'i) Eloy, Arizona Feb. 7th thru 9th and at (FCI) Federal Correctional Institution, Safford, Arizona Feb. 10th thru 12th, 2012.

The Kanaka Maoli at Saguaro Prison about 65 involved and dedicated to the Hawaii...

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The Arizona Republic article on the Makahiki

November 23, 2011
November 23, 2011

Valley & State

Eloy prison's Hawaiian population takes part in harvest ceremony

Nov. 16, 2011 12:00 AM

The Arizona Republic

It was still dark when they began to chant toward the eastern horizon, nearly 100 voices calling to the sun.

"E ala e, ka lai i ka hikina; i ka moana, ka moana hou hounu; pi'i ka lewa, ka lewa nu'u."

"Awake," they say in Hawaiian, "and rise from the ocean into the highest heavens."

Their rhythmic beckoning continues until the sun cli...

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Latest Makahiki Report of November 2011

November 19, 2011
Report on the Makahiki Opening Ceremony, Saguaro Prison, Eloy, Arizona, November 7–11, 2011.

Monday: Ka'iana Haili and Kini Kaleilani Burke leave Hilo, Hawaii. Taking with them Kinolau (food) for Lono, ti-leaves, Uala, Kalo, Ulu, Kalua Pua'a, Poi, etc. to partake during the Ceremony.  Navigational Material gathered from Imiloa Astrological Center and also from Pu'u nana Leo learning center, 2 Altars made of Kawila and Pohaku and other food items to share with them, Amulets (12) for A...

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                                                   REFLECTIONS ON GEORGE KAHUMOKU JR.'S VISIT TO MY BROTHER, VAN KAHUMOKU

I want to thank Howard Omori, with the State of Hawaii Dept. of Public Safety for letting me know the procedure to visit by brother Van, in prison at Saquaro CC in Eloy, AZ and also for giving us approval to do a concert there.  Also Mahalo to Pastor Ron Fujiyoshi for his spiritual and practical guidance.  

The road for anyone wanting to visit a close relative in an out-of-state prison is a lengthy and time-consuming procedure that can take anywhere from 3 to 6 months.  I talked to my sister, Sharleen, about visiting my brother, Van almost one year ago.  She put me in touch with Kahu Ron Fujiyoshi who gave me my brother Van's prison mailing address.  He had been moved from Halawa, to Oklahoma to Texas to Arizona in the 12 years since he was incarcerated.  First I had to be put on his mailing list with my birth date, social security number, mailing address and phone numbers.  My intent was to include not only personal visit with Van but also to perform a concert to entertain the prisoners with a Kahumoku Family Concert.  I was booked at Whittier College in California to do a Kahumoku Family Hawaiian Slack Key Concert with my brother Moses and my son Keoki for April 2, Saturday, 2011, and I thought it would be great to include my sister Sharleen and my nieces Kalei and Kapua, who are my brother, Van's twins, as hula dancers with a concert for the inmates at Saguaro for Sunday April 3, 2011.  

I began the procedure to get everyone on Van's mailing list and in the beginning there was going to be a Kahumoku Family Show in Whittier, CA and at Saguaro CC in Eloy AV with 7 of us attending.  In the end, only 5 of us made it, as my nieces, Van's twins could not get off work for such a visit.  They live in Sacramento, CA and my wife and I live on Maui.  My sister Sharleen was traveling from Oahu, while my brother Moses and my son Keoki live on the Big Island of Hawaii and were leaving from Hilo.  Things were anxious in the beginning as Moses missed his Hilo flight from Hilo to Honolulu and he would have to be re-routed to AZ, then LA the next day.  It all worked out in the end with prayers for God's will.  The Honolulu to LA flight was delayed and Moses caught up with us in Honolulu and we were able to fly together from Oahu to LAX.  We arrived at LAX about 12 am, delayed but intact. 

We did two concerts in Whittier CA, one at 3 pm Saturday afternoon and an evening concert from 8 pm til 10:30 pm  We crawled into our hotel at around 12am and got up at 3 am Sunday morning with less than 4 hours sleep, to drive by Toyota van to Eloy AZ, a 7-1/2 hour drive according to Mapquest.  We had arranged an 11:00 am to 1 pm visit with Van for Sunday, then a 1pm to 2:30 pm Concert at Saguaro CC in Eloy, AZ.  We also scheduled a Kahumoku Family Public Concert in Phoenix for Sunday at 6pm to 8pm, and a Guitar and Ukulele Workshop from 8 - 9pm on Sunday evening.

Anyway, When first learning about visiting my brother Van, I was told to log onto  It is quite an impressive website where we found out details about CCA, the warden, and about this Corporation called CCA.  After getting approval for our concert and visit from Howard Omori with Public Safety back in Hawaii, I was put in touch with Todd Thomas, the Warden, Sondra Cevedia, Admin Clerk for the Asst Warden of Programs, and Lori Scadden, the Warden's administrative clerk. We got a letter from Sondra Cevedia explaining the rules and procedures about entering the facility and about dos and don'ts of what was allowed in.  We followed the directions to the last building at the Saguaro Eloy facility where my brother was located, which was about 10 miles from the Eloy town itself, located in about a 1/2 mile chain of prison facilities located on a long, dusty road in flat AZ.

Assistant Warden Ben Greigo was there to meet and greet us with Coach Rael in the parking lot.  Coach Rael brought in sound equipment from a container located in the far side parking lot.  He was great and helped inventory our music gear for check in and scanning.  Everyone turned in a driver's license and got a personal prison ID.  We were given a quarter to lock our wallets and anything else not allowed into a locked locker in the waiting room.  We also purchased two plastic cards for $5 each where we put about about $50 on each card for vending machine purchases that my bro, Van told us about.  Their vending machines took no cash or credit cards, only these white plastic cards that you deposit money on.  This was quite impressive and my son Keoki purchased the cards and used them in the vending machines in the visiting area.  There was a microwave for heating frozen food and the chicken pasta was fresh tasting, pretty ono and hot!

There was also a bathroom in the waiting room and everything was pristine and very clean and brand new looking.  The women staff that we met who checked us in  were all professional looking.  Coach Rael took our gear to the concert hall or quad while we were escorted through various double door entrances and exits and a maize of chain link fence, double locking areas to the visiting room in a different place from the concert where we waited for my brother, Van.  We passed several line ups of our boys from home in passing to our destination.  We were told that we could hug at my brother's entry and exit but that my brother had to sit across from us the entire rest of our time.  He was given a look at the items in the vending machines but we had to purchase them for him.  We also had to ask permission to unlock the bathrooms if we needed to use them.  Tables were placed 10 feet apart and there were at least 3 other families visiting out of the dozen or so tables available for visitors.

My brother Van was still the same character that I remember when we were kids growing up.  He was proud, full of jokes and belligerent and a hoot to be around.  I was concerned about him being overweight.  He drank about 4 bottles of juice while we were there.  He said that they don't serve juice in prison, so he missed that the most.  Other than that, he wasn't interested in eating anything else.  He explained that most of the boys there, didn't need jail.  They needed rehab for their non-violent crimes.  He also told of how he got put in the hole for 6 weeks for sharing his money with his family and those less fortunate.  Always an optimist, he said the great thing about being in the hole was that he lost 50 pounds, that he has since put back on.  He talked about his health and dental problems of bad breath.  Before we knew it, our time was up and we had to leave.  Van also gave Moses advice about taking care of himself and that he had to spread his earnings with the rest of his Ohana outside of jail.  We said our goodbyes and hugged and then we were escorted to another quad where we preformed for 1-1/2 hours.

The boys sang along with most of the songs we sang, with my son, Keoki taking the lead singing such songs as Sweet Lady of Waiahole, and Molokai Slide.  Moses warned the boyz not to write their names on the beds and stuff or else be doomed to return back to prison.  Several boyz got up and danced for a while, but were asked to sit back down as there was some concern about them getting too close to the staging area.  We all held hands and sang Hawaii Aloha while my brother, Van looked on from a distance.  He suddenly asked to leave before we could have any more contact with him. He formed a fist with his right hand and pounded his heart like an old Greyback Gorilla in the wild and pointed to the sky.  

Looking back, I saw about 10 of my students from Lahainaluna High School where I taught for 18 years.  I told them that if they had listened to me, they would not be there.  What was even more sad was the fact that I knew most of their families could not afford the visit to Eloy, AZ or Florence, or Oklahoma or Texas.  At Saguaro alone, there's at least 1700 Keiki O Ka Aina with perhaps more than 10,000 other out-of-State prisoners from Hawaii.  My brother, Van talked about video visits set up by the New Hope Churches in Honolulu, but I know of no such services for families on Maui, Lanai, Kauai, Molokai or Hawaii.  Our Governor has made a commitment to bring our boyz home.  Brother Van says such a move is great for most of the prisoners, but not the lifers.  He said the lifers pull better time out of State where there's less crowding.

I have looked at the 'Ohana Ho'opakele feasibility study prepared by Chelle Shand.  There is lots of hard work and information there!  What is lacking in the organization chart is where are the inmates?  Also even though this is aimed at non-violent inmates, I talked to Moses and he said we need to look at public safety first.  We need to address the areas of public safety.  I would like to visit the Kauai facility.  I would also like to see more in community monitoring of transitions and setting up family counseling and dealing within family problem-solving options.  I was trained in Ho'oponopono with Aunty Eleanor and Aunty Maile Akimseu by Lynette and Richard Paglinawan and Tutu Kawena Pukui.  We need families and Po'o Haku's within our families to step up to the plate and respect of the Makua and Keiki to follow through.  We also need emergency family teams to kokua and model other families.  For me, I need to do my homework and find out who's on Maui that are already doing things and try to connect and collaborate and not reinvent the wheel.. I need to get up to speed and am not even sure if I'm capable of giving time and energy to this.  But as my Tutu says, "Through prayer, anything is possible."  Please pray for wisdom and guidance, Amen.

I also feel that we must take the lead in sharing our Hawaiian Values with our immediate Ohana as a testing ground for the Pu'uhonua concept being written about.  THere also needs to be consequences cause and effect that I see lacking in the concept.  I believe that sustainability within the family and in life must be taught with individuals sacrificing for the greater whole.  We are too much focused on individualism that supercedes family wholistics.  Mahalo for the opportunity to share my mana'o.  We also need to teach our people hard to think and dream so that they can be independent entrepreneurs and self-employed.    George Kahumoku, Jr.

 Makahiki Report from Saguaro Prison, AZ

Since 2003, members of Ohana Hoopakele have traveled to prisons on the continent for Makahiki ceremonies twice a year to help Kanaka Maoli pa'ahao (prisoners), observe Hawaiian cultural and spiritual practices and to help them strengthen their connection to traditional values.  Following is the report of the most recent visit, by Kini Burke, Spiritual Advisor and 'Ohana Ho'opakele Board Member. 

Aloha Kakou,

Again we are back from closing Makahiki ceremonies at Arizona Saguaro Prison  where we were from Monday, January 24th through Friday, January 28, 2011.

The Kanaka Maoli again about 80 plus, involved and dedicated to the Hawaiian Religion and Cultural programs at Saguaro, were outstanding in performing the ritual for the closing Makahiki ceremony.  On Tuesday, we prepared for the closing ceremony to take place at 5:00 am Wednesday morning.  We had the Kanaka Maoli all day on Wednesday performing our rituals for Lono.  Our time with them was very productive and Kaiana Haili and I, as  spiritual advisors, were pleased with the time spent at Saguaro.

The most exciting thing, was to see new pa'ahao stepping up to leadership roles as those formerly in those positions return to the community.  The goal is to be good role models as they leave prison.  We have seen that happen already, for instance one brother who returned to the community from Oklahoma is now doing well and is active in the Royal Order of Kamehameha.  We have met several other pa'ahao that we worked with in prison, doing well in their transition to community life too.

We are working on getting the pa'ahao more cultural classes in Hawaiian language, hula, chanting, woodworking.


Kini K. Burke, Spiritual Advisor


Monday 1/24/11       Arrived in Arizona, checked into motel

Tuesday 1/25/11      Met with Warden Todd Thomas, Assistant Warden Ben Griego, and Chaplain C. Miller. 

                                Later, met with pa'ahao.  We brought ho'okupu - coconuts, bananas, taro, fish, sweet potato, water from Hawai'i, 

                                200 ti-  leaves--all this for Akua Lono.  Also brought pahu drums, nose flutes, ukulele strings, sample amulets for 

                                family aumakua.  We prepared for Makahiki ceremony, practiced chants, genealogy, etc.

Wed. 1/26/11           5:30 am  entered prison

                                6:00 am  Entered yard - Chanted up the sun with E Ala E, then proceeded with the ceremony in ceremonial clothes and 

                                over 80 pa'ahao participants with Warden Thomas and Assistant Warden Griego watching.

                                3:30 pm   Makahiki games with rewards to participants.  No feast this Makahiki as it is only allowed in the prison once 

                                a year.

Thurs.  1/27/11        Morning:  2 hour talk session to evaluate Makahiki

                                Afternoon:  2 hour Ho'oponopono session

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