Sunday, November 20, 2011

Study: Native Hawaiians treated differently by justice system

Are Native Hawaiians getting a fair shake in our legal system? New numbers show that 40% of all prisoners in Hawaii are Native Hawaiians, and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) says that's no coincidence.

A blind-folded lady is the symbol of justice in the US, but OHA says a study by a non-profit group shows that justice is not blind towards Native Hawaiians.

Daniel Kahanaoi was locked up for life plus 20 years for shooting a Honolulu attorney to death last year. The judge gave Kahanaoi the stiffer punishment for "utter lack of remorse."

But, a new study by the justice policy institute in Washington DC suggests that Native Hawaiians are more likely to be sent to prison and for longer periods of time than other ethnic communities.

"For example a Japanese person is sentenced to 14 fewer days of probation and whites to nearly 21 fewer days than Native Hawaiians" said OHA Executive Director Clyde Namuo.

The study also found that Native Hawaiians don't use drugs more than other races, but go to prison more for drug offenses. Richard Naiwieha Wurdeman says he's seen it during his 17 years representing Native Hawaiian defendants.

"Our society can't stand for such disparate treatment" said Wurdeman. more