On the evening of October 9, 2019 we were privileged to provide the 11th annual celebration honoring people who were discharged from parole in Hawai‘i this year and those who helped them. The event was held in the magnificent Ali‘iolani Hale (Hawai‘i Supreme Court) in Honolulu. About 65 guests including those being discharged from parole, their loved ones, judges, lawyers including public defenders and a couple candidates for the 2020 election for prosecutor for the City and County of Honolulu, parole board members and others from our community who care about people.

Guests enjoyed Tamashiro poke and Vietamese and Thai food, along with beautiful Hawaiian music and some hula by Rose Kurita, her son, and friend. Rose has played music at the event for all eleven events in the last 10 years. She travels from Kaua‘i to do it.

After the pupu and music we headed upstairs to the courtroom (where I gave my first argument as a lawyer in 1985!). We sat in a giant circle of chairs all facing each other. A beautiful oli (Hawaiian chant) was provided by Steve Costa Archdeacon of the Espiscopal Diocese of Hawai‘i. The wonderful people below were given awards for helping others with reentering the community after incarceration and probation and helping people get discharged from parole.

Our beloved cheif Justice Mark Recktenwald and Hawai‘i Friends of Restorative Justice fearless president Rich Turban gave out the awards. Kindhearted certificates were also provided from the office of our dear Senator Mazie Hirono  for all those who attended being discharged from parole. She wrote to them: “Congratulations as you begin a new chapter in your life. May your determination and persistence continue to bring you much success. Best wishes for your continued success.” Senator Hirono also provided personalized certificates for each of the below awardees.

After the awards we went around the circle with each person having the opportunity to say whatever they wanted to those getting off parole and the rest of the community. We started the event at 5 pm and were finish with the talking circle by 8:00 pm. We look forward to next year’s 12 annual Parole Completion event. If you want more information about the event please see this pape Restorative and Therapeutic Reentry Ritualsr co-authored by our wonderful US District of Hawai‘i Judge Leslie Kobayashi. 

People especially honored at the 2019 Parole Completion Celebration (in addition to those who were discharged from parole):

Yolanda Nasser, Assistant Supervisor Kitchen Service, who was discharged from parole in 2018 with little more than determination, persistence and a big heart, she serves as a role model for others on parole. Yolanda is receiving the Restorative Justice Community Reentry.Accepting the award for Yolanda who is taking care of her beloved ill dog is the Noriko Namiki the CEO of the O‘ahu YWCA.

Malina Kaulukukui, Haku Ho‘oponopono, Kumu Hula, and Retired University of Hawai‘i Social Work Professor for her contributions helping imprisoned women and the community to learn about Hawaiian culture to help people heal, find peace and create a more just society—receiving the Patti Lyons Social andRestorative Justice Award. This award is named for Hawai‘i social worker pioneer Patti Lyons who has dedicated her life to helping children and families live safely and happily. Among her many accomplishments, Patti was instrumental in introducing the law that enacted Hawai‘i state Child Protection Services.

Rhonda Loo, Maui Circuit Court Judge, for her extra humanitarian efforts helping people harmed by wrongdoing and those who caused it to communicate, find understanding, and to heal. Judge Loo is highly respected by those who she rules in favor of and those she does not, along with the community and her colleagues on and off the bench. Judge Loo is receiving the Hawai‘i State Judicial Innovation & Restorative Award.

Kevin Chang, United States Magistrate Judge, for his many years helping with kindness and respect all the federal justice system customers and providers who have appeared before him. Judge Chang has gone out of his way to help people in a Federal Reentry Program and has stayed in touch with them helping one get a federal clearance and another an internship. He embodies compassion. He is receiving the Federal Judicial Innovation & Restorative Award. He is off island tonight and accepting his award is the Honorable US District Court Judge Leslie Kobayashi.

Hardware Hawai‘i, is a special local business that goes out of its way to hire people formerly incarcerated and convicted of felonies—receiving the Restorative Employer Award. Accepting its award tonight is Hawai‘i Parole Board Chief Fred Hyun who especially understands the importance of second chances and the opportunity of employment.

Gwenson Yuen, Hawai‘i State Parole Officer, selected by managers and administrators for his excellent parole officer work reflecting this award’s special name sake, the Russ Takaki Restorative Parole Officer Award. The award is named for the late Russ Takaki who administered the Hawai‘i state parole office in the 1960s-1970s when Hawai‘i had the lowest recidivism rate of only 5% in the United States. Russ also served in WWII, and was a famous big wave surfer who personally helped people on parole find employment, invited them to have dinner with his family, and sometimes took them surfing. 

(more about the incredible Russ Takaki here)