Thursday, February 7, 2008

Bill aims to help inmates rejoin community

For some inmates, prison is the only home they know. Freedom may be the sweet nectar they all envy, but rejoining the community is most likely the bitter fruit some fear.

Like Nancy Neki, a former inmate who spent nine years making a correctional facility her home, transitioning back into society frightened her. Neki bounced around from foster home to foster home and had no family or relatives. She could neither read nor write and would probably have returned to the prison cell she once called home if it weren't for the classes that helped her transition back into the community.

"It helped me learn about how to deal with life," Neki said. She said that the program helped build a nonexistent self-esteem and forced her to reexamine her thoughts and values.

The Committee on Public Safety and Military Affairs heard HB3426 this morning, a measure, introduced by Rep. Karen Awana, D-24 (Nanakuli, Maile), that would appropriate funds to establish a cognitive restructuring program for Native Hawaiians. The program would combine strategies that help inmates get back in touch with their cultural values, and formal cognitive restructuring and transitional practices. In order to reintegrate offenders and reduce recidivism, the program aims to restructure thought processes and teach cognitive skills that would help with basic decision-making and problem-solving.

The bill passed with amendments that will change its language by reflecting a pilot program. Read Testimonies.

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