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VOICES: ‘No Justice, No Peace’

“Martin Luther,

How Are You

I Feel Your Spirit

Coming Through

I Wonder, If You came Back

What would you say?”

The opening lines of a song I once wrote come to mind as Dr. King’s Life is honored. I do wonder what he would make of the current affairs in our country. In this time of remembrance, I reflect on a phrase attributed to him and recited on many marches since his assignation, “No Justice, No Peace.” Through my filter, I review the last 7 plus years of my nephew’s incarceration by the State of Hawaii’s Justice System. It begins with my trip to the Prosecuting Attorney’s office shortly after Edward’s 10-year sentence started. Mandatory minimum sentences demand 10 years for second-time offenders. And most recently ends with a conversation with the Administrator of the Private Prison Facility in Arizona which houses Hawaiian inmates.

Edward was sent back to Arizona with over 100 other inmates in late September. When I fielded a question to him asking why the Department of Public Safety would send anyone to a facility that experienced a COVID outbreak he denied there had been one. But then he justified it with four words, infractions — extenuating circumstances — and overcrowding. Generic responses for cruel actions. And yes, Edward contracted the virus, along with over 674 other inmates from Hawai‘i, well two lost their lives. Oh…but he could have been paroled to a model organic farm on Kaua‘i and shifted gears from a punitive model to a restorative model based on rehabilitation.

My interfacing with our justice system and its employees hasn’t been a pleasant one. Questions I ask are often muddled in deception, manipulation, rank assertion. In short, not user friendly. One employee wanted to know who I was “anyhow”, and how come he’d never heard of me. I took pause on that one. Once, a Judge, in response to a certified letter I mailed to him, said to a courtroom of strangers, “And I don’t know who your relatives are Mr. Alapai, but I think they’ve been watching too much television.” That remark is permanently seared in my mind!

Edward’s time behind bars is 17 years now. He had a brief 6 months of freedom between the previous sentence. Statistically, it is the average time before recycling. Recidivism in Hawai‘i is 50%. A failed model.

The cost to the tax payer is enormous. The daily cost for housing an inmate ranges between $78 and $150 per day. Multiply that by 17 years and you get the idea. But apparently, he still hasn’t been rehabilitated. Hard to bend the mind around the cost of destroying a young man, to the pittance it would cost to rehabilitate him.

And yet there is no vested interest with our politicians to save the tax payers money. Nor is there concern over what happens when this damaged human is tossed out to their relatives or the community to pick up the pieces.

So, Dr. King, Thank You from my heart for your brief monumental monument in time and all you left us with. My sorrowful heart repeats as a mantra, “No Justice, No Peace.” And this connection to your legacy soothes the heavyweight I carry from year to year.

•••

Blu Dux is a resident of Kalaheo.
Source: The Garden Island

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