Date: 24 Nov 2012

‘Ohana Ho‘opakele: The Politics of Place in Corrective Environments

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Abstract

Henri Lefebvre speaks of space as a social product. Spatially, law operates as a social product when considering sites of imprisonment. Call them prisons, jails, or correctional facilities, people who violate the law go to these places for purposes of confinement, punishment, rehabilitation. However, with decades of increasing rates of incarceration, we can see that these places fail both the jailed and the external society to which they will return. Through overcrowding, exploitative private companies, and defunded social services, these places continue to cause injustice as spaces in which the social product of rehabilitation is often lacking. However, on the Island of Hawai‘i, there is an alternative. In Hilo, the community-based organization ‘Ohana Ho‘opakele’ seeks to provide a Hawaiian holistic approach that will serve as an alternative to incarceration. Through wellness centers (pu‘uhonua) and the practice of traditional ho’oponopono (indigenous conflict resolution), this group advocates for a spatially-oriented rehabilitative approach to restorative justice. A central feature is the land upon which the program will be situated and its organization as a self-supported ahupua‘a. This indigenous land division contains diverse and sustainable resources where the participants will be connected to Hawaiian culture and practices central to the concept of wellness for the person and the community. The group’s vision for this program is far-reaching as it will serve as a model for justice in the Restored Hawaiian Kingdom. In this paper, we will explore the vision of ‘Ohana Ho‘opakele against the backdrop of a politically westernized legislative-based response to the diasporic urgency of Hawaii’s incarcerated.