A program focused on healing aims to help felons find jobs — and - KFVE, K5-Hawaii News Now, Local Programming

A program focused on healing aims to help felons find jobs — and a fresh start

( Image: Hawaii News Now ) ( Image: Hawaii News Now )
WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) -

The Puuhonua Program tries to offer its clients a fresh start. 

They work with inmates before and after they are released from correctional facilities on Oahu to prepare them for life on the outside. Their mission: Reduce the chances a client will commit another crime and go back to prison.

"Puuhonua means a safe place of healing," program director Francine Dudoit-Tagupa said.

The program includes counseling and strategic planning so former felons have a better chance of success.

Dean Kokubun has been in and out of prison five times. This time, he's getting help from Puuhonua. It arranged for housing at Next Step Shelter and gave him a game plan..

"You get a job first, and once you start saving some money you look for a place for you to stay," he said.

Waikiki Health runs the program. Since 2015, Puuhonua has assisted more than 800 inmates.

"If we are wanting them to not re-enter then we've got to give them the tools to work with," Dudoit-Tagupa said.

The program helps released inmates get their Social Security cards, state IDs, medical insurance and medical exams so they're ready to apply for jobs when they're released. It also provides temporary financial help for shelter, food, clothing, and transportation until they get on their feet.

"A lot of the inmates come out basically with nothing," said Matt Taufetee of First L.A.P., an organization that works with Puuhonua to help clients get hired..

"Within the first 30 days they usually get a job. It's usually through our partnership with felony friendly employers who are willing to help them."

HMSA recently awarded Puuhonua an $800,000 grant so it can hire more workers and add more services.

"I'm hoping that through this grant and the hard work that we're doing we're able to speed up the process a little bit quicker so that they can get back to the work force," Dudoit-Tagupa said.

Armed with the support from Puuhonua and its partner agencies Kokubun's looking for a job and now has guidance to make right choices.

But he admits it will be a struggle. 

"I'm going to try. That's all I can say," he said. "i'm not going to say I'm going to do it because it's hard."

Puuhonua helps male and female inmates and those in work furlough programs.  

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