Vision of Healing: HYCF Warden Wins State Manager of the Year for Inspiring Transformation

Posted on Jun 23, 2017 in Main, NEWS

Much like the corrections facility he manages, Mark Patterson requires you look deeper before you form your first opinions. Patterson, Warden of the Hawai‘i Youth Correctional Facility (HYCF), may seem reserved and stoic on the surface, but his passion for transforming corrections into a way of healing will spark any room. His commitment to recreate the windward HYCF property into one that connects youth and their families to their communities is just one part of why Patterson was chosen as the State of Hawai‘i Manager of the Year.

DHS Dir. Pankaj Bhanot, HYCF Warden Mark Patterson and Gov. David Ige celebrate Patterson as the state manager of the year.

Patterson began his service to HYCF in June 2014 after a successful tenure with the Women’s Correctional Community Center (WCCC). Patterson’s work at WCCC focused on integrating opportunities to heal trauma and strengthen families. He believed this focus was not just for the women incarcerated but also for their families and communities.

The experience at WCCC instilled in Patterson a belief that a move from traditional corrections to a pu‘uhonua – a place of sanctuary and healing – would provide better outcomes for individuals and their families and communities. This focus on transforming corrections into a pu‘uhonua is what drove Patterson from the beginning of his tenure at HYCF, a part of the Office of Youth Services, which is administratively attached to the Department of Human Services (DHS).

Patterson spent his first year essentially auditing the facility and its programs to see where improvements could maximize outcomes. From there, he has worked with fellow state agencies and community providers to identify solutions for HYCF to better serve youth, their families and their communities.

When Patterson looks at the more-than-400-acre property, he doesn’t see a corrections facility. He sees a sanctuary that embodies the next iteration of juvenile justice, “Where we’re fully invested in prevention,” Patterson says.

Patterson vision includes programs that invest in youth before and after incarceration to achieve the following goals:

  1. Reduce: lower the recidivism rate and the rate of youth entering the system;
  2. Reform: transform youth by providing them opportunities; and
  3. Replace: put youth back into their communities for social reinvestment.


A view of the Koolau from HYCF grounds.

The road to this sanctuary will be one Patterson will walk alongside his more than 120 employees, numerous fellow state, local and federal government agencies and countless private and public community partners and providers.

Patterson understands that as the focus of the facility transforms, so must his team. He instituted a training academy for staff that increased the training curriculum. Participating staff have provided positive feedback, sharing appreciation that they could use their training in both their professional and personal lives. In addition to other information, the trainings include the same trauma-informed and culturally grounded framework that Patterson sees for HYCF as a whole.

Office of Youth Services Executive Director Merton Chinen shared how he believes Patterson can lead the daunting transformation ahead of him. “Mark is a person with a huge ‘we can do it’ vision that makes us all stretch and grow, even with expected ‘growing pains.’ It is humbling to work side-by-side and know we are on a path to aloha to truly make it better for our youth and ‘ohana,” said Chinen.

On May 18, 2017, Patterson was recognized for this leadership and vision as the State of Hawai‘i Manager of the Year. Late last year he was recognized as DHS Manager of the Year and chosen to represent the department in the statewide public service competition.

Recognition for Patterson’s vision and leadership is a guiding light for us across the department. It is also a charge to serve our clients in a holistic way that remembers always that each individual is part of a larger family and an even bigger community – an ‘Ohana Nui as you might say.

And is typical both of Warden Patterson and an ‘ohana approach, he wished to share the following words with the department and his team.

Aloha DHS Ohana,

It is with great humility that I come to you after recently receiving the State Manager of the Year Award for 2017. I am honored to represent the Department of Human Service among the other state agency and department managers. When I look upon the perpetual trophy I felt privileged to join the rank of other DHS employees who received the award as well.  Leimalama Leeloy (1999) and our very own Director Pankaj Bhanot (2013).

The work that binds us all together within the department is symbolic in our collective commitment to improve the well-being of Hawai‘i’s families. Truly it takes a village to raise one family. Each division and section within DHS is crucial to the department’s goal of ‘Ohana Nui. I thank all of you who continue to support the vision of a new Hawai‘i Youth Correctional Facility. Our success is your success.

I also want to show appreciation for my mother, retired DSSH Income Maintenance Supervisor Helen Patterson. Much of my childhood was hanging around my mothers work sites in Waipahu, Nānākuli, Mā‘ili, Wai‘anae and Mākaha. You can say that DHS blood is strong in our family. It is from my mother that service to others and the building of family became important in my career. Thank You Mom.

I look forward in the continuation of the HYCF Master Plan in creating a wellness center, a sanctuary for our most high-risk children and their families.

Mark Patterson