by Derek Scarlino / Love and Rage – The States
Honolulu – A group of around 30 people convened outside of the Kamehameha Highway entrance of the Oʻahu Community Correctional Center in Honolulu on January 6 to hold a candle-lit vigil for the prisoners on the other side of the fence — especially the ones who are battling COVID-19.
COVID has ripped through prison populations across the United States, and Hawaiʻi’s prisons are no different. What is also not different about prisons in Hawaii are the disproportionate numbers of inmates. As of the 2010 census, Hawaiian / Pacific Islanders comprise about 10 percent of the state’s population, but account for nearly 40 percent of its prison population. With an incarceration rate of 487 per 100,000, Hawaiʻi stands out internationally according to data from the Prison Policy Initiative as of 2018.
Those who attended the event, the second such gathering organized by the Hawaiʻi Abolition Collective in recent weeks, were paying tribute to the incarcerated people who have faced outbreaks throughout the pandemic which have put thousands of lives in danger while infecting hundreds at facilities throughout Hawaiʻi as well as Arizona, where about 1000 Hawaiʻi State prisoners are interned at Saguaro Correctional Facility.
Several abolitionists spoke to topics addressing the need to end the carceral institutions which not only deprive millions of their rights, but expose them to health crises like COVID-19. The names of several prisoners who have passed from COVID at Saguaro Correctional Facility were also read aloud before a moment of silence was held in memoriam.
The Hawai’i Abolition Collective’s mission statement reads as such: Abolition imagines and works toward a world beyond punishment, encompassing efforts to transform the conditions that allow society to cast certain lives as disposable. We work toward a world that supports abundance, reconciliation, healing, and the well-being of all without the existence of prisons and policing. We dream of a world where prisons no longer exist because we’ve collectively decided to use non-punitive methods of community accountability and everyone has their needs met.
Another vigil will be held on Wednesday January 20th (Facebook Event link) at OCCC beginning at 6 PM.
The Hawai’i Abolition Collective is a group of individuals and organizers from Hawai‘i Peace and Justice, Coronacare Hawai‘i, Hawai‘i Community Bail Fund, the Hawaiʻi Innocence Project, Trans Hawai’i, Hawai’i Friends of Restorative Justice, and other organizations across the islands dedicated to the abolition of the prison industrial complex and all systems of violence that promote punishment rather than our collective abundance and thriving as a community.
The Love and Rage Media Collective publishes under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
[Photos and Cover photo: Derek Scarlino / Love and Rage]