State budget cuts suspend female prisoner furlough

30-year-old program has operated out of the YWCA in city’s Makiki area for the past five years

HONOLULU (AP) — State budget cuts are expected to prompt officials to suspend a program that provides work furloughs for female inmates, the Hawaii Department of Public Safety said.

The program’s suspension is the result of the economic impact of the coronavirus, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Wednesday.

The Home of Reawakening for Women furlough program in Honolulu is scheduled to lose its contract with the public safety department at the close of the current fiscal year.

The change is a temporary measure and the public safety department will consider restarting the program after the state’s budget situation becomes more clear, department spokeswoman Toni Schwartz said.

A new contract would cost $613,200 for 14 female inmates for another year, Schwartz said.

Prisoner advocate Kat Brady, coordinator of the Community Alliance on Prisons, said the program costs $120 per day for each participant versus $198 daily to house an inmate in a state prison or jail.

The initiative is Hawaii’s only community-based furlough program for female prisoners trying to reenter life outside of custody.

The 30-year-old program has operated out of the YWCA in the city’s Makiki area for the past five years.

The YWCA building has space for 23 participants and the program’s closure means participants will be incarcerated at the Women’s Community Correctional Center in Kailua, Brady said.

“Sending women back to prison after they have earned work furlough status is heartbreaking and will impede the progress they have worked so hard to achieve,” Brady said.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.