Get Tougher On Repeat Offenders

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - March 23, 2005

It is difficult for me to conjure up what Satan might look like, but here’s a nomination:

The repeat offender with 37 arrests and seven felony convictions who invaded the home of an 85-year-old woman and, not satisfied with taking her cash, raped her.

It is nauseating to hear the details of this case. The perpetrator can only be classified as sub-human, and our judicial system should provide for appropriate punishment for such evil. There is a move afoot from the state Attorney General’s Office to advance legislation this session to ensure repeat offenders would receive mandatory longterm sentences.

I was speaking with Gov. Linda Lingle on my KHVH radio show when a caller, who was perturbed by the recent story I cited, wanted the governor to tell him what was being done to stop such attacks.

The governor made the comment that Attorney General Mark Bennet would be best to talk to. Minutes later the phone rang and there he was. Bennett explained that a specific bill was introduced and passed by the Senate not once, but twice. But when the bill was sent to House Judiciary Committee, it died.

And it is dying again right now.

State Reps. Sylvia Luke and Blake Oshiro, both Democrats, are the House Judiciary chair and vice chair, respectively. Those outraged at the prospect of our state failing to provide the mechanism to separate dangerous and convicted felons from law-abiding citizens can look directly to these two elected officials.

The conclusion I am able to reach is that Reps. Luke and Oshiro know more than the governor, the attorney general, the entire Senate, the city prosecutor, the U.S. attorney and Hawaii’s law enforcement community. They must have deaf ears to the plaintive cries of victims and their families who are seeking justice and closure. They must be desensitized to the public voices of frustration and outrage upon learning of repeat offenders on the loose.

My question: Why don’t they at least give the bill a hearing?

I believe it is a dereliction of duty to disallow debate and discussion on initiatives that clearly affect so many. In this case, the entire Senate chamber found value and worth to not only hear the bill, but to pass it through. What could possibly be the source of opposition for the repeat offenders bill by House Judiciary leadership?

I did speak with state Rep. Alex Sonson, who is a member of the Judiciary Committee. He gave some explanation on the basis the state does not have sufficient prison space for additional convictions. I responded that the state is not short of money, nor is it unable to raise revenue for various projects.

My point is that there is a lack of courage on government’s part to establish a clear set of priorities regarding incarceration. It is not like the repeat offenders’ presence in our communities is brand new.

In the mid-’90s proposals were drafted to privatize our prison system. I believe revisiting those ideas is necessary — and get the dialogue going ASAP.

In the meantime, contact Reps. Luke and Oshiro and urge them to hear any and all bills being held regarding repeat offenders. We deserve that much.

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