“In 1945 Governor Ingram Stainback requested that Director of Institutions, Thomas B. Vance, concentrate his efforts on developing self-supporting prison industries.”
“With that in mind, Kulani Prison Camp, opened in 1945 as the successor to Waiakea Prison Camp, operated a lumbering enterprise producing logs and milled lumber of native hardwoods as materials to be processed and sold from Oahu Prison’s industrial area.” (Department of Institutions Summary 1939-1958)
The development of Kulani Camp and its means of access, the Stainback Highway, fell under the management of Vance. (Maly)
“Kulani … provided a reservoir of manpower for the construction of public roads on Hawaii …. – roads that would have been economically prohibitive if built under contract.” (Department of Institutions Summary 1939-1958)
Today, Kulani Correctional Facility (KCF) is a 200-bed minimum security prison located on the slope of Mauna Loa, approximately 20 miles south east of Hilo, Big Island of Hawai’i.
In addition to the Kulani Prison Camp, in 1946, they planned the Mauna Loa Boys School. “There is nothing experimental about the boys’ school project. It is to be built four miles from the proposed new prison site”. (Honolulu Advertiser, October 2, 1946)
The plan was to “move delinquent boys from Waialee [on the North Shore of O‘ahu] to Mauna Loa, on Hawai‘i.” (Star-Bulletin, Jan 4, 1947)
In addition, “The purpose of the Mauna Loa camp is to segregate the older juveniles from Koolau where they are an influence on younger delinquents.” (Hawaii Tribune Herald, July 31, 1953)
“Work got under way thus week on Mauna Loa boy’s forestry camp on the Big Island. Because all bids were higher than the territorial department of institutions could afford, prisoners from Kulani project and the boys who will occupy the camp are to finish the work.”
“The camp is five miles north of Kulani Project.” “It is built on the same plan as the new Koolau Boys’ home on Oahu. Forty boys whose ages range from 16 to 19 will be quartered there.” (Star-Bulletin, Oct 5, 1950)
“The Mauna Loa Forestry Camp will open officially tomorrow … ‘I believe that the Mauna Loa Forestry Camp program will quickly evolve into one of the most forward looking steps that the territory has taken in mapping a solution to the problem of youth offenders.’”
“The fourteen young men from Koolau are almost all in the 18 and 19 year old age group. They are a highly selected group of young men who have not only volunteered for the forestry camp assignment but who have insisted on it”.
“‘The plan for the young men to take over the forestry camp at this time,’ Mr. Vance [Director of Public Institutions] said, ‘came about as a result of the Lions trip to the summit of Mauna Loa.’”
“‘Four of the young men from Koolau spent Thursday and Friday nights, at the forestry camp March 20 and 21 and joined the Lions on the Mauna Loa summit trip March 22. They asked their superintendent, Mr. Henry, for a conference with me before the Lions left the mountain summit.’”
“‘The conference was held at the United States weather bureau laboratory atop Mauna Loa. The four young men from Koolau asked for the privilege of completing their own structure at the forestry camp, rather than having Kulani do it for them. They reason that it is their plant.’”
“‘They are not boys; they are young men who are just as capable or heavy construction work as the men at Kulani. Many of the forestry camp’s young men will soon be due for parole or discharge. Before that time, they want to make a constructive contribution to the building of the camp.’”
“‘I was somewhat surprised to find that occupancy of the forestry camp and the initiation of a CCC type of operation represents the realization of a dream to the young men in our training school system just as much as it does to me.’”
“‘When the four Koolau boys’ home visitors to the forestry camp returned to Koolau, they presented their plan to William G Among, superintendent, division of training schools. He and I then conferred and the plan was approved.’”
“‘The fourteen young men at the forestry camp will be housed in the duplex staff apartment of the main structure until they complete their own quarters.’” (Superintendent William Henry, Hawaii Tribune Herald, April 3, 1952)
By 1953 the facility was operational, but legislative appropriations did not make ends meet, “‘We find it impossible to operate Mauna Loa within our budget.’ [William Among, superintendent of the division of training schools] said. “There is an $11 per capita per day expense at Mauna Loa and the legislature has only given $2.60 to meet this.” (Star Bulletin, Sept 8, 1959)
When Territorial House members toured the camp in 1953 they called the project “one of the most expensive and impractical projects ever constructed in the Territory of Hawai‘i”. (DLNR)
“Before it went into full operation there was a change of administrations”. “One man’s dream of a better life for delinquent boys has become an efficiency expert’s nightmare.” “Defenders of the original plan say it was not given a chance.” The camp was closed on October 1, 1953.
However, it was not always rosy when it was operating. “The propensity for escape by these inmates debuted July 19, 1952, when 14 boys walked away from a picnic on Coconut Island and scattered all over Hilo. … It took 25 policemen more than 14 hours to round up the escapee”. There were other escapes.
Likewise, “Inmates at reform schools have a penchant for stealing cars, and those at Mauna Loa Forestry Camp were no exception. On Sept. 17, 1952, three youths stole a panel truck and went for a joy ride up the Stainback Highway …”
On their return, the driver “lost control of the speeding truck. It went off the road and overturned several times.” One of the occupants “was pinned under the wreckage and killed. … [the driver] was later charged with negligent homicide and sentenced to five years in Oahu Prison.” (Warshauer)
“Nobody knows what to do with the Mauna Loa Forestry Camp, rising like a fortress of concrete and steel in a rain-drenched mountain fortress 28 miles from Hilo.” (Star Bulletin, Sept 8, 1959) It was temporarily turned into a warehouse.
Since closure the facility was used intermittently by Kūlani Correctional Facility and by the military for training. (DLNR) “On June 15, 1969, the Division of Forestry and Fish and Game of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources issued a permit to the 29th Infantry for field training. The assaulted the abandoned building June 19-23, 1969, leaving it the wreck it remains today.” (Warshauer)
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