Deaths in Custody – Homicide: Nunuha family sues CCA and state.

This poor man’s murder was preventable – and horrendous. Condolences to his loved ones. I hope you make CCA and the State of Hawai’i pay – it’s the only thing that seems to make these people change how they abuse and neglect other human beings. If you need the support of other prisoners’ families surviving similar traumas, please let me know (Peggy Plews 480-580-6807 I am in Phoenix, AZ.
Arizona State Legislature, Phoenix.
February 15, 2011
—————-from the ACLU of Hawai’i————–

Family of Hawaii Prisoner Murdered in Mainland Prison Files Lawsuit Against State of Hawaii, Corrections Corporation of America

Today the family of Bronson Nunuha, a 26-year-old Hawaii prisoner who was brutally murdered at a Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) (NYSE:CXW) private prison in Arizona in 2010, filed a lawsuit in state court against CCA and the State of Hawaii.  The suit exposes CCA’s business model of grossly short-staffing prisons and cutting corners in every way possible to make its private prisons profitable.  These systemic practices violated fundamental safety requirements and subjected Hawaii prisoners to rampant gang violence in under-staffed prison units.  Bronson Nunuha was just months away from release on a burglary conviction when CCA forced him to share housing with extremely violent, gang-affiliated prisoners in the same unit.  A copy of the complaint is here

“Bronson’s death was senseless and preventable.  CCA and the State of Hawaii needlessly put him in danger,” said attorney Kenneth M. Walczak, who, along with the Human Rights Defense Center and the ACLU of Hawaii, represents the Nunuha family. 

“Private prisons are known to have higher levels of violence due to understaffing and high staff turnover that result from their goal of generating ever-greater profits,” added HRDC director Paul Wright. “But prison companies are not allowed to make profit more important than human life.  Unfortunately, CCA’s desire to turn a corporate profit needlessly cost Bronson Nunuha his life.”

Bronson was transferred to CCA’s Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy, Arizona as part of a controversial practice in which Hawaii prisoners are sent to for-profit mainland facilities. He was serving a 5-year sentence for burglary and property damage when he was killed by other prisoners. Bronson, who was only months away from completing his sentence and returning to his family on Oahu, left behind a grieving mother, sisters, and his seven-year-old son. 

Under Hawaii law, the State was required to return Bronson to Hawaii when he had only a year left on his sentence so that he could complete necessary programs to help him re-enter the community.  The State ignored this law.

Bronson was murdered in CCA’s “Special Housing Incentive Program,” or SHIP. The SHIP program places rival gang members and prisoners who do not belong to any gang together in one unit, where they share recreation time and sometimes the same cell.  Predictably, this practice results in violent incidents like Bronson’s murder. Only one CCA employee was present to oversee approximately 50 prisoners in the SHIP unit where Bronson was housed.

While at the CCA prison, Bronson had asked to be removed from the SHIP unit but CCA staff denied his requests.  On February 18, 2010, two gang members attacked Bronson in his cell; the cell door had been opened by a CCA employee, who then left. Bronson was beaten and stabbed over 100 times. His assailants carved the name of their gang into his chest and even had time to leave his cell, shower and change clothes before CCA staff knew that Bronson had been killed. 

One of Bronson’s assailants, Miti Maugaotega, Jr., had previously been involved in several attacks on other prisoners at a different CCA prison. Maugaotega, a gang member, was serving multiple life sentences for attempted murder, rape, and armed robbery. CCA and the State knew that Maugaotega was dangerous and capable of extreme violence but still housed him in the same unit as Bronson, a non-violent offender close to finishing a 5-year sentence.

CCA prisons that house Hawaii prisoners have been plagued with problems. In addition to Bronson’s murder, another Hawaii prisoner, Clifford Medina, was killed at the Saguaro facility in June 2010. In 2009, Hawaii removed all of its female prisoners from CCA’s Otter Creek Correctional Center in Kentucky following a scandal that resulted in at least six CCA employees being charged with rape or sexual misconduct. Other Hawaii prisoners have sued CCA, charging that the company has tolerated beatings and sexual assaults in its mainland prisons, and for refusing to allow them to participate in native Hawaiian religious practices.

“Why the State of Hawaii continues to contract with this company is mystifying, frankly,” said Wright. “After two murders, disturbances, allegations of rampant sexual abuse and a lack of accountability by CCA employees, it’s fairly obvious that CCA is unable or unwilling to safely house Hawaii prisoners, and the State is unable or unwilling to adequately monitor conditions at mainland prisons. Hawaii taxpayers are certainly not getting what they’re paying for.”

ACLU of Hawaii Senior Staff Attorney Dan Gluck added, “the ACLU has long warned the State about the damaging effects of its short-sighted policy of shipping prisoners to the mainland. This tragedy is bound to be repeated unless Hawaii adopts more effective prison policies.” 

Bronson’s family is represented by the San Francisco law firm of Rosen, Bien & Galvan, LLP, by HRDC chief counsel Lance Weber, and by the ACLU of Hawaii’s Dan Gluck.  The attorneys ask anyone with information about Bronson’s death – or information about violations of other safety rules at the CCA Saguaro Correctional Facility – to contact them.              

The Human Rights Defense Center, founded in 1990 and based in Brattleboro, Vermont, is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting human rights in U.S. detention facilities. HRDC publishes Prison Legal News, a monthly magazine that includes reports, reviews and analysis of court rulings and news related to prisoners’ rights and criminal justice issues. PLN has almost 7,000 subscribers nationwide and operates a website ( that includes a comprehensive database of prison and jail-related articles, news reports, court rulings, verdicts, settlements and related documents. 

 Rosen Bien & Galvan, LLP has a unique practice blending public interest and private sector litigation.  The firm represents individuals and companies in complex trial and appellate litigation in state & federal courts.

Delay on Mainland Prison-building

All the more reason to develop prison alternatives, folks…by all means, though, get them out of Arizona. We’re just killing them here...


New Prison Contract Overdue
Hawaii Reporter
Friday, May 27th, 2011
Posted by Jim Dooley

BY JIM DOOLEY – Although Gov. Neil Abercrombie has said repeatedly he wants to halt out-of-state incarceration of Hawaii prison inmates, the state is finalizing the award of a new, three-year contract for Mainland imprisonment of up to 2,000 convicts.

The contractor selection was supposed to be made at the beginning of this week, but a public safety official said the issue was still being finalized.

A spokesman for Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the company that owns a private Arizona prison where some 1,900 Hawaii medium security inmates have been held, said he could not comment because contractor selection is still underway.

Abercrombie and other officials say new prison space, owned by the state or a private partner, needs to be developed here.

The new Mainland prison contract award is s being made against the backdrop of recent studies by the Hawaii Auditor and the Arizona Department of Corrections which question the true costs to taxpayers of privately-operated prisons.

CCA’s current agreement to house Hawaii inmates at Saguaro Correctional Center expires June 30.

The new contract is to take effect July 1 and last three years, with two possible annual extensions beyond that, according to the bid request published by the state earlier this year.

The state can cancel the contract with three months’ notice.

At present, the state is paying CCA $63.22 per day for each of the 1,900 or so inmates held at Saguaro, which is located in Eloy, Arizona, about halfway between Phoenix and Tucson.

Saguaro Correctional Facility (Hawaii Auditor Photo)

The present contract has an automatic escalator clause in the per diem rate and the charge has risen between two and three per cent annually since 2007, when it was set at $57, according to a December 2010 report Prison Audit from the office of Hawaii Auditor Marion Higa.

Costs to Hawaii for Mainland incarcerations have more than tripled since 2001, rising from just under $20 million annually to more than $60 million, according to Higa’s audit.

In-state prison expenses were more than $167 million last year.

Higa’s study was harshly critical of the state Public Safety Department’s reports to the Legislature on prison costs, saying the department used different methods to calculate in-state and out-of-state expenses.

“Management chooses to report artificial cost figures derived from a calculation based on a flawed methodology, designed entirely on what is easiest for the department to report,” Higa said.

“Because funding is virtually guaranteed, management is indifferent to the needs of policymakers and the public for accurate and reliable cost information. As a result, true costs are unknown,” said the audit, which was prepared before the Abercrombie administration took office.

One of the audit’s complaints was that didn’t use exact inmate counts for its in-state expense numbers, instead basing its reporting on the total number of prisoners that could be held in state-owned prisons.

And some overhead and administrative costs assigned to in-state operations should have been counted as out-of-state costs, Higa found.

Each bookkeeping method increased the costs of in-state incarcerations and decreased out-of-state costs, Higa said.

A recently-released study by the Arizona Department of Corrections of that state’s contracts with private prisons reached some of the same conclusions.

The study did not include the Saguaro facility. No Arizona prisoners are held there.

Like Higa’s study, the Arizona the report found that per diem rates charged by private prisons did not include “inmate management” expenses which the state also had to pay for privately-incarcerated inmates.

“As a result, the ‘real’ costs for private contract beds are understated in comparison to the reported costs for state beds,” the report said.

And the report pointed out that private prisons are selective about the types of inmates they accept.

Prisoners with severe physical or mental health problems are either not accepted by the private contractors or their treatment expenses are billed separately to the state, the report said.

That’s the situation with Hawaii’s CCA contract, according to Higa’s report and language in the new contract bid.

One factor in deciding whether to ship a Hawaii prisoner to Arizona is that there are “no medical or

Halawa Correctional Facility (Hawaii Auditor Photo)

mental health conditions that may affect an inmate’s ability to function within a normal range,” Higa reported.

The pending contract requires the vendor to pay the costs of routine “medical, mental health, and dental service.”

But some expenses must be paid by the state, including hospital physician reimbursements, surgeries and other “invasive procedures” and procedures involving anesthesiology, the contract language stipulates.

In those cases, the contractor must pay the first $2,000, but the state is responsible for the balance, according to the contract.

In a response to Higa’s audit, newly-appointed Public Safety Department director Jodie Maesaka-Hirata made it clear that no matter how the numbers are sliced and diced, private prisons are cheaper than Hawaii lock-ups.

Maesaka-Hirata is a leading advocate for bringing Hawaii inmates home to local prisons or to expanded community release programs.

She told Higa the price for 1,000 or so inmates now imprisoned at the Halawa Correctional Facility is double what it would be if they were held in Arizona (assuming the private prison would accept them).

Hawai’ian prisoners may be doomed to more CCA abuses.

The article below is from the Honolulu Star Advertiser – nice follow-up to the on-going story on your prisoners.

So, heads up, Hawai’i: Corrections Corporation of America still wants your prisoners here even though they just rape, beat, and otherwise abuse the ones they already have. Think again about whether or not you really want to commit your most vulnerable people (who are in with all the real thugs) to the care of a community such as Eloy. That whole community is feeding on the misfortune of your prisoners and their victims alike, and cares not one bit about your public safety.

The more endangered you are or think you are, in fact, the more prisoners they all get paid to warehouse. Eloy and CCA are are quite happy with your crime rate, I’m sure – try to kick it up a little, and they’ll probably throw a party in appreciation. They don’t care who you ship to them or why – just keep the warm bodies and dollar bills coming. The same people are trying to get the legislature to criminalize all of us, too.

Doesn’t Hawai’i find that troubling? You are the hosts for parasitic entities who will cause you more trouble than an epidemic of bed bugs…speaking of, I hope you’re testing your prisoners for Hep C, because we have an epidemic of that in our own prisons, and it’s being neglected more so than most of the rest of the country. 25% of Arizona’s prison population has tested positive for the virus, and they don’t even test everyone about 30% of our prison deaths are due to the liver and kidney failure that results from chronic infection. HCV is far more destructive and malicious than most criminals – and goes home with almost all of them to spread insidiously through their own communities. I bet the people of Eloy don’t even know what kind of risk their guards and community are at, too.

Don’t think there isn’t racism involved in your treatment here, by the way. It’s tragic enough that Hawai’i incarcerates so many indigenous people – moving them off their homeland and away from their communities in the process – for the profit of the selfish, greedy white men who make their living off of people being victimized. It’s even worse that you put them in the hands of Arizonans, of all people… this is, after all, the Deep South of the New Southwest: we collectively hate people of color unless they’re doing our bidding, and we criminalize those who resist white supremacy here. The only reason we don’t turn around and just lynch our prisoners to be done with them is because Joe Arpaio and Chuck Ryan are killing them off for us. I know this because I’ve heard from many of their family members. I don’t want to start hearing from your devastated survivors, too.

It doesn’t matter whose name the prisons are in, if you’re going with for-profits: they’re all evil. Here, though, Arizonans staff them, and our people are well-known for being unbelievably cruel to “outsiders.” We even seem to be proud of it, looking at who we have in office here. Remember that, and if nothing else, at least find a way to get your people out of this god-forsaken state. Even if you bring CCA into your own backyard, at least you can keep an eye on them there, and have Hawai’ians be the ones to administer justice to Hawai’ians.

Let me know if there’s anything I can do from this end to help.

Peggy Plews, Phoenix
Arizona Prison Watch


Bids sought to house inmates

The state says it does not have the facilities to bring prisoners back to the islands

Honolulu Star Advertiser
By Rob Shikina

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Mar 11, 2011

State prison officials are seeking proposals to house about 1,800 prisoners outside Hawaii after the current prison contract ends in June, despite Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s call to bring inmates back home as soon as possible.

“It is very clear at this time that we do not have all the facilities to bring the inmates back,” said Martha Torney, deputy director of administration for the state Department of Public Safety. “As the state moves toward bringing the inmates back to the islands, that will determine what our needs are in the future.”

The state already has returned some prisoners since Abercrombie said in December that he wants prisoners to stay in Hawaii.

During the quarterly rotation in January, the state brought back about 125 more prisoners than were sent to the mainland, Torney said.

The request for proposals, published March 1, designates a three-year contract, but the state can cancel the contract and remove prisoners at any time, Torney said. The submittal period ends March 31.

One company that plans on submitting an offer is Corrections Corp. of America — the fifth-largest U.S. prison operator behind the federal government, California, Florida and Texas.

Hawaii has 1,699 prisoners at CCA’s Saguaro Correctional Center and 58 inmates at CCA’s Red Rock Correctional Center, both in Eloy, Ariz., Torney said.

Brad Regens, CCA’s vice president of state partnership relations, said CCA is not lobbying to keep Hawaii’s prisoners out of state.

Torney said the Public Safety Department is working on a two-pronged plan to return isle inmates and hopes to have the plan ready for the Legislature by year’s end. She said it’s too early to discuss any other time line.

The plan includes a re-entry project to get prisoners into the community and out of prison sooner, and a look at expanding the number of prison beds in Hawaii.

Sen. Will Espero, chairman of the Public Safety, Military and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee, said he would like to see Hawaii prisoners returned rather than paying a private company $60 million a year to house them. He and Rep. Henry Aquino, chairman of the Public Safety and Military Affairs Committee, said CCA officials expressed interest in running a private prison in Hawaii.

Hawaii’s prisoners were sent out of state 16 years ago as a short-term solution to overcrowding and have been under CCA’s care since 1998.

Espero said there are many possibilities for returning Hawaii’s inmates, such as reopening Kulani Correctional Facility on the Big Island, building a new prison on Maui, introducing electronic monitoring and expanding furlough programs.

“If the governor is serious about this, within his four-year term he should easily be able to bring back 1,000 or 1,500,” he said.

Hawaiian prisoners coming home

It’s about time…


State Retrieves Inmates From Private Prisons
Courthouse News
February 1, 2011

HONOLULU (CN) – Hawaii’s new governor, Neil Abercrombie, kept his promise last week by bringing 243 inmates back to Hawaii from Arizona prisons run by the Corrections Corporation of America. Abercrombie acted after more than a dozen inmates filed lawsuits claiming they were subjected to brutal treatment inside CCA prisons.

Hawaii, which has been strapped for prison space, has relied on two CCA prisons in Arizona to house its inmates: roughly 1,800 Hawaiian inmates at the Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy and about 50 at Red Rock Correctional Center.

But the Hawaii Department of Public Safety had to investigate CCA and intervene after a string of incidents brought inmate lawsuits alleging assault and battery, criminal indifference, cruel and unusual punishment, retaliation and negligence. One complaint claimed that even the warden joined in.

In December, 18 inmates at the Eloy prison claimed to have been “beaten and assaulted, including by having their heads banged on tables while they were stripped to their underwear and while their hands were handcuffed behind their backs,” by a group of prison guards and “the warden himself.”

According to that complaint, guards “deliberately destroyed and failed to preserve evidence of their wrongdoing, including videotapes,” and “deliberately falsified reports,” including threats of harm to inmates’ families and death threats to inmates if they told anyone of the beatings. (Here is Courthouse News’ Dec. 15 report on that lawsuit.)

Then in January, a Hawaiian inmate at Saguaro sued CCA, claiming a guard forced him to give the guard a blow job in his cell.

Both lawsuits were filed against CCA. The 18 inmates also sued Hawaii, seeking a protective injunction; they claimed that Hawaii’s Public Safety monitor, on site at Saguaro, allowed the prisoner abuse incident to go unchecked.

Gov. Abercrombie brought the inmates back on Jan. 19-20, placing most of them at three Oahu facilities and 26 on Maui and the Big Island, according to Hawaiian news reports.
Public Safety Chairman Will Espero said: “If we’re going to spend $60 million a year to house inmates, I’d rather spend it here in Hawaii.”

Other states are using lockdowns – confining prisoners to their cells for a day – to save money by sending staff home during the lockdowns.

States use private prisons to try to reduce prison costs, particularly on salaries and benefits, as it relieves the states of pension obligations.

“If any state prison system needs relief, it’s California’s,” Reuters reporter Jim Christie wrote last week. “The matter of its notorious overcrowding has reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which could back a lower court’s order to reduce the states’ roughly 147,000 adult inmate population to 115,500 – still a tight squeeze in prisons designed for 84,000.”

California is housing 10,300 inmates in CCA prisons, Reuters reported, and may increase that numbers to 12,850 this year. But California’s prison guards union has immense political power, and surely will fight any efforts to reduce hours or benefits for prison guards.

Taking prisoners: CCA and the outsourcing of Hawai’i.

From the weekly Criminal InJustice Kos blog at


Out of State, Out of Mind
by Emmet

In 1976, Delbert Kaahanui Wakinekona was serving a life sentence in Hawaii State Prison, having been convicted in a Hawaii court. He was seen as a behavior problem in the prison. In a couple of botched hearings, prison officials decided that he was a troublemaker who had caused the “failure of certain programs” in the maximum control unit. Hawaii transferred him to Folsom Prison in California. He sued. The Supreme Court held, in 1983, that, first, a prisoner convicted of a felony has no constitutionally protected right to serve his sentence in any specific state (e.g. the one whose laws he violated). And Mr. Wakinekona had no right to have the Hawaii prison regulations applied, because they didn’t really limit the State’s discretion anyway.

What happened as a result?

Well, because of Olim and similar cases, two things happened. First, states and the feds, which had been told in the past that they had to follow their own rules, realized that if they just made their prison policies and regulations good and vague, or better yet nonexistent, they wouldn’t have courts looking over their shoulders. So they could put a prisoner in the hole indefinitely if they called the hole “administrative segregation” instead of “segregation” and said that the prisoner was there for “the security of the institution”, instead of for “assault,” e.g. smacking another prisoner over the head. Added bonus: they could do it even if said prisoner didn’t smack another prisoner on the head. Extra added bonus, and the subject of this diary: they could even transfer the troublemaker out of state and never have to see him or her again, if they paid enough.


I saw this policy illustrated in 1985 in the United States Penitentiary at Marion, Illinois, when I watched a four year old boy sobbing and pounding at the glass that separated him from his father. Prisoners held out of state don’t have the right to conditions like those in their own states. They’re subject to the rules of the state/company to which they’re sent. Federal prisoners at Marion didn’t get contact visits, and neither did the state prisoners held there, who were one third of the population at that time. A couple years later I represented another prisoner transferred out of state and away from his family. They couldn’t afford to go visit him at all. His six year old son told his mother, “I’m going to be really, really bad, so they’ll send me to be with Daddy.” Good times.

At first, involuntary out of state transfers were used for people like Delbert Wakinekona, “bad guys” who were disliked for one reason or another by prison authorities. Assaultive people and gang leaders were transferred, and so were writ writers and journalists and activists and political prisoners. Authorities got another state, or the Feds, to accept their bad guys, sometimes for money, sometimes in return for accepting the other state’s bad guys. So a prisoner associated with a particular prison gang, or known as a “political” or as a gay rights activist, might be plucked out and sent alone to a prison where a large group of prisoners were hostile to his gang or his beliefs. And no one at the prison could vouch for him, because no one knew him personally. Sometimes he survived. Sometimes he didn’t.


But sheer dislike is no longer the main reason for involuntary transfers. There was profit to be made. Corrections Corporation of America was founded in 1983, two months before the Olim decision. It opened the first real prison for profit seven years later. But it has never been about housing “bad guys.” When possible, it has gone for the easy money, and prison overcrowding (brought on in large part by the War on Drugs and three strikes laws) offered a great opportunity. Nowadays, a prisoner is more likely to be transferred if he has GOODbehavior in prison. No escape attempts, good health, plus a long sentence yet to serve are other factors that make a prisoner, literally, marketable, and may put him or her on the chain to Arizona or Minnesota or any other of the 19 states and DC where CCA has facilities.

Five years ago, the National Institute for Corrections reported that there were then about 5,000 prisoners who had been transferred out of state, half to private prisons, the other half to the federal or other state systems. Almost all those transferred to private prisons were sent there because of overcrowding. Most sent to other state systems were sent for “security” reasons. 26 states had people serving their time in other jurisdictions (but remember that some may have been voluntary transfers — notorious defendants or convicted police or prison guards, moved for their safety).

That number has probably quadrupled or quintupled since then. California alone has more than 10,000 prisoners out of state, almost all because of overcrowding. It’s getting ready to send more. In November, 2010, California entered into no-bid contracts with CCA and another company to place 5800 prisoners out of state over the next two years. Was incoming Governor Jerry Brown consulted? Not clear.
Pennsylvania shipped over 2000 prisoners to other state (not private) prisons because of overcrowding.

What will stop this banishment practice, apart from a complete rethinking and reorganization of our society?

Not the courts. At least, not directly.

(Lawyerly interlude: An argument I really like, that transfer is “banishment,” forbidden by some state constitutions, has been made without success with one exception that I know of: West Virgina, whose Supreme Court held that there is a state-created right to serve your sentence in-state.)

At this point there’s a lot of money invested in prisons for profit and consequently in continuing prison overcrowding. It’s been my experience (YMMV) that at least since the Warren court, courts don’t respond to big injustices which require big reordering of financial interests until public opinion –or overriding financial considerations — move in favor of change.

Recognizing the importance of economic considerations, enterprising prisoners and their lawyers have done their best to inflict death by a thousand cuts. They look at the fast-diminishing groups of rights they retain by constitution or statute. One is access to the courts. Another is the right to parole consideration (if their state has parole). So they demand access to their state’s laws. You’d think it would be easy for a prison system to provide this, but it’s not. Or they demand access to unmonitored phone lines to call their attorney. That can almost bring some private facilities to a complete halt. They demand in-person meetings with their parole board, demand that their records be transmitted to the board, demand that they have the progress meetings with prison officials that their state’s parole laws mandate. And if a prisoner learns that he may be transferred because of overcrowding, he or she can always commit an infraction. There’s a cost/benefit analysis there, and you have to choose your infraction carefully, so as not to screw up access to visits.

Current budget constraints may put the squeeze on private prisons too. In 2010, Kentucky pulled its prisoners out of a CCA facility IN KENTUCKY because some genius figured out that it was too expensive. There’d been over 500 Kentucky prisoners there at one time or another. Now the Ky CCA facility only has Vermont prisoners, sent to relieve overcrowding.


Many states have transferred prisoners out of state in order to relieve overcrowding and have resisted calls to release prisoners early, even people convicted of minor crimes. But when state budgets have to be cut past the point of pain, some states are going to realize that early release is a lot less expensive than paying a huge CCA bill every month. The more people talk about this, and write to their elected officials, and visit their elected officials, the more likely it is to happen. Like economic considerations, public opinion doesn’t change overnight, but it does change and it can be nudged. For example, pressure from family members, especially in smaller states, can be effective if it’s sustained.

And after the deaths and mistreatment of several Hawaiian prisoners in CCA mainland prisons, Hawaiian officials are taking another look. Incoming Governor Neil Abercrombie wants to bring Hawaain out of state prisoners home. Speaking about out-of-state transfer on December 16, 2010: “It costs money. It costs lives. It costs communities,” he said. “It destroys families. It is dysfunctional all the way around — socially, economically, politically and morally.”

The next day, the former Hawaii Attorney General, Micheal Lilly, who argued Olim for the state, wrote a letter to the editor of the Hawaiian Star-Advertiser. He applauded newly elected Governor Neil Abercrombie’s proposal of bringing almost all Hawaiian prisoners home. He excepted only the very worst. I bet that if he were asked, he’d even concede that Delbert Wakinekona could come home. Over the years, Delbert has gotten a lot older. Now he’s housed in CCA. If Red Rock Correctional Facility in Arizona can hold him, the Hawaaian prison system probably can, too.

(Second lawyerly interlude: Mr. Wakinekona has had the same lawyer who argued his case in the Supreme Court for all these years. He’s trying to get his client’s sentence commuted.)

As far as I could tell, in the 34 years since he was transferred, Delbert Kaahanui Wakinekona has never gone home again.

Rape is Rape: More CCA abuses at Saguaro

From Arizona Prison Watch:

According to Courthouse News this week, a suit was filed against the State of Hawaii and Corrections Corporation of America due to the October 2009 sexual assault of a prisoner who was coerced to perform oral sex on CCA Saguaro Correctional Center guard Richard Ketland. Apparently in Eloy, Arizona, the rape of a prisoner brings – at worst – a felony charge of “unlawful sexual contact,” and can be settled as a lesser offense so as to only require probation.

The guy he assaulted was just in on a drug charge, by the way, for those of you to whom it matters.

The real “truth in sentencing” in America is that you may be raped, regardless of the severity of your own crime. As for Ketland – on July 14, 2010 he plead guilty to “attempted unlawful sexual conduct” (a class 6 felony), and sure didn’t hit the news or go to prison.

I doubt he did a day in jail, either.

You wouldn’t know this kind of thing happens here from the mainstream media in Arizona. Here’s an interesting article in the region’s Tri-Valley Central notifying the nearby Florence community of sex offenders who have been released there. That was posted the day after Ketland’s victim filed suit. I don’t find any mention of a CCA guard sexually assaulting a prisoner at all, though, after a number of different searches of the publication: nothing on Ketland even in the deeper archives.

I only got six hits on Google when I looked up the terms ” ‘richard ketland’ cca prison arizona”, too.

I assure the uninitiated out there: being forced to your knees and having someone ejaculate in your mouth is a pretty heinous form of penetration. Most of us would call that rape. Prison guards in this state have the authority to use lethal force against prisoners to prevent them from harming anyone else or escaping – and no one believes a “criminal” over a “cop”. The victim could have easily been crucified by Ketland and CCA if he even survived putting up a fight.

I’d hope that if the same thing happened to me in Pinal County, the good sheriff and prosecutor would call rape what it is and treat it accordingly – especially if my assailant wore a uniform and a badge, and carried the responsibility of the public’s trust.

I guess I should commend the Pinal County prosecutor for calling it a crime at all. Still, I’m disappointed. Some of you should remember that in December 18 other prisoners from the Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy filed suit over brutality by guards on a massive scale. I have yet to hear anything about criminal charges being filed for the assault, intimidation, threats to prisoners and families, etc. – crimes that were apparently perpetrated with the blessing of the CCA warden, however.

So, I again urge the public that cares – wherever you may be – to contact the Pinal County Sheriff, Paul Babeu, the Pinal County Attorney, James P. Walsh, and the Arizona media to shine a spotlight on this abuse and prosecute the criminals working for CCA at Eloy’s Saguaro Correctional Center. All the contact info you need is here from December: “Prosecute CCA prisoner abuse.” If you didn’t speak up against violence and abuse then, please do so now.

For reference, here’s the Private Corrections Working Group’s rap sheet on CCA prisons across the country; they have four facilities in Eloy alone.

And here’s the Hawaiian victim’s actual legal claim

Welcome to Eloy, AZ. Note their affection for Jesus.

He was a prisoner, too.

Eloy Red Rock Riot update: Christmas Eve.

The latest word from Red Rock (in a news release via K-Gun in Tucson) is that 43 prisoners have been identified as being involved in the riot today and are in administrative segregation under investigation (isolated in detention units). According to them, seven prisoners were treated for injuries at a hospital, only one of whom was admitted (his injuries are reportedly non-life-threatening).

It still appears as if only California’s prisoners were involved.

(photo credit: TriValley Central)

Prison Talk has a thread going (that’s the link to the most current page, as of this evening) where family and friends of prisoners there are sharing info about which yard was involved, what’s happening with visitation, etc. I can’t figure out much more from that yet, but they usually know what’s going on before the media does – and will keep talking about it long after the media loses interest.

The families will be more current than I am, as well, so follow them if you’re really concerned about what’s going on and how other prisoners there are being affected. While rumors may sometimes fly in forums like Prison Talk, CCA’s news releases aren’t necessarily the whole truth. They don’t even have anything about the Red Rock Riot or the lawsuit at Saguaro up on their newsroom website, so don’t turn to CCA for “news” on their prisons.

My friend, Frank Smith from the Private Corrections Working Group (a private prison industry watchdog), dropped me a line today that he left the following remark about the Red Rock Riot on the TriValley Central website. Frank’s insight is often worth repeating:


“These prisons are chronically troubled.

Thanks to campaign support and contributions to Republicans there is virtually no oversight. Arizona officials have no clue as to whom they hold; what murderers, pedophiles, rapists, kidnappers have been imported from hundreds or thousands of miles away. The female staff is endlessly sexually harassed by management. Escapes and riots are as regular as rain in the tropics.

When charges are successfully brought against murderers from out of state, it is Arizona taxpayers who will pay to keep them for most or the rest of their lives.

This “minor” incident, as the for-profit prisons are careful to term them, overtaxed Pinal County emergency services. Who will be paying for the costs of the medivac choppers to Maricopa County? Who will be called to address a “major” incident?

In Colorado, there was a 1999 riot in a badly constructed prison built by the same outfit to which Mohave County sole-sourced the Kingman prison, thanks to promoters who are now hovering over Arizona communities like a flock of vultures. It took law enforcement from four states to put down that riot. In 2004 a CCA riot in the same prison cost the state about three quarters of a million to put down, but it only got $300,000 or so in reimbursement.

These ineptly run lockups have long since exhausted the potential labor pool in Pinal county and low-wage labor required to run them will come from Maricopa or Pima counties.

Despite the staggering incompetence of the for-profits, Coolidge officials have welcomed still another such mistake, this one to be run by MTC, the outfit that gave us riots in Pima and Mohave county this year, and the escapes of three murderers who killed a vacationing Oklahoma couple. MTC has had escapes, riots and murders in other states as well, including California, Texas, New Mexico and their home state of Utah. MTC was thrown out of Canada, where cooler legislative heads prevail and politics are not dominated by special interests.”

Arizona: Hawaiian prisoner murder investigation.

Isle inmate’s death sparks investigation

By Mary Adamski

POSTED: 01:30 a.m.
HST, Jun 11, 2010
The Honolulu Star Advertiser

The second death this year of a Hawaii inmate in an Arizona prison is setting off alarm bells with the state Department of Public Safety and lawmakers who want to scrutinize the arrangement of outsourcing local felons to privately operated mainland lockups.

Two investigators from the Public Safety Department will leave next week for Eloy, Ariz., where about 1,900 Hawaii prisoners are held at Saguaro Correctional Center.

No cause of death has been released yet for Clifford Medina, 23, who was found unresponsive in his cell Tuesday morning. An emergency medical services team tried unsuccessfully to revive him, according to a brief statement from the Corrections Corp. of America, which operates Saguaro.

“It is critical for us to find out what the autopsy says,” said Public Safety Director Clayton Frank. “If this was something where we knew a person had a health-related reason, it would be one thing. But this is out of the ordinary because of his age. … From what we got from the facility, the cellmate called officials indicating (Medina) was unresponsive.”

State investigators also went to Arizona after Bronson Nunuha, 26, was found dead from multiple stab wounds in his cell Feb. 18. He was the first Hawaii inmate killed in a private mainland prison since 1995, when the state began shipping prisoners away.

“What we found that time was the facility did whatever it could have done,” Frank said. “I think they responded appropriately under the circumstances.”

Two Hawaii inmates were indicted three weeks ago on capital murder charges for Nunuha’s death. They are Miti Maugaotega Jr., 24, serving a life sentence for first-degree attempted murder in the June 2003 shooting of Punchbowl resident Eric Kawamoto, and Micah Kanahele, 29, serving two 20-year sentences for the October 2003 shooting deaths of Greg Morishima at his Aiea home and Guylan Nuuhiwa in a Pearl City parking lot a week later.

The judge originally gave Maugaotega 11 life sentences for several charges stemming from the Punchbowl break-in and an earlier burglary in which he sexually assaulted and beat a 55-year-old woman.

The state Legislature sent to Gov. Linda Lingle for review a bill calling for an independent audit of the state’s contract with Corrections Corp.

“We need to re-evaluate the security and safety of Saguaro and our inmates and see if this is the best place and time to house our inmates,” said Sen. Will Espero, chairman of the Senate Public Safety Committee.

Medina was sent to Arizona about six months ago, Frank said. He was serving time for first-degree assault on a law enforcement officer, two counts of second-degree burglary, second-degree theft and bail jumping. He would have been eligible for parole in 2012.

Nunuha, who was incarcerated for three counts of second-degree burglary, was scheduled to return to the islands in a few months to prepare for his release on Oct. 31.

Another Hawaii inmate dead at CCA Eloy Prison

Investigators Look Into Inmate Death

Hawaii Inmate Housed In Ariz. Prison

POSTED: 5:36 pm HST June 9, 2010

UPDATED: 6:18 pm HST June 9, 2010

HONOLULU — State public safety investigators are heading to Arizona to look into the death of a Hawaii inmate at a private prison.

Clifford Medina, 23, is the second Hawaii inmate to die at the Saquaro Correctional Facility in Eloy, Ariz., in five months.

Public safety director Clayton Frank said Medina was found unresponsive in his cell at about 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.

His cause of death has not yet been determined.

Medina was serving time for multiple offenses including assault against a law enforcement officer, second-degree theft, second-degree burglary and third-degree assault.

On Feb. 18, Bronson Nunuha, of Maui, was killed at the prison.

Two other Hawaii inmates have been charged with murder in Nunuha’s death.

Who will profit from SB 1070…

Private Prison Firm Exploiting Broken Immigration System

Progressive States

As a Service and Employees International Union (SEIU) campaign highlights, one key player profiting off the nation’s broken immigration system is the private prison firm, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).  CCA operates and profits significantly from private prisons across the country, many of which house immigrants in detention, a kind of legal limbo in which immigrants are imprisoned while their cases are being considered, or who are in the process of being deported.

Roughly 40 percent of CCA’s profits stem from operating jails that house immigrants.  In fact, the corporation earned over $1.7 billion in revenue in 2009 alone — much of it from contracts with the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the US Marshals Office, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons to cope with the influx of nonviolent immigrants in the nation’s prison system.  CCA has also been a long-time funder of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and member of its Private Sector Executive Committee, which advocates on behalf of CCA to push prison privatization as a model for states.

While most believe prisons are operated by state or federal governments, they are increasingly privatized.  As the number of immigration prosecutions continue to skyrocket and comprehensive immigration reform languishes in Washington, DC, this makes the business of operating prisons all the more lucrative for private firms.  According to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), immigration prosecutions reached record levels in federal fiscal year 2009.  The Department of Homeland Security initiated 67,994 immigration prosecutions that year alone, a 459 percent increase from 2000 and a 973 percent increase from 1990.

Filling Up Prisons with Non-Violent Immigrants:  In addition, federal immigration authorities are increasingly targeting nonviolent immigrants, whose only offense is attempting to unlawfully cross the border, via efforts such as Operation Streamline, which focuses on apprehending nonviolent border-crossers.  According to a May 2010 study by the Warren Institute at the University of California, Berkeley Law School, projects such as Operation Streamline that focus on immigrants who haven’t committed any crime in the US divert precious federal resources from apprehending drug cartels and human traffickers that frequently operate with impunity along stretches of the US-Mexico border and are responsible for much of the violence in the region.  These record numbers of nonviolent immigrants are, in turn, filling jails and immigration detention centers to capacity: contributing to growing costs to states and higher profits for private prison companies like CCA.

The Failures of Prison Privatization:  Both federal and state governments have utilized private firms to operate prisons, despite evidence of systematic failures. Privatization only exacerbates the challenges faced by states, communities, and families dealing with the broken immigration system.  For example, the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy finds that there is no compelling evidence that prison privatization has led to savings, while the Private Corrections Institute analyzes several issues with privatization, which include “major riots, sex abuse scandals… improper billing by private prison companies… employment law violations, higher employer turnover rates, increased levels of prisoner-on-prisoner and prisoner-on-staff violence, lack of transparency and public accountability, and higher recidivism rates for inmates released from privately-operated prisons.”

When privatization involves prisons and detention centers, the profiteering comes at the expense of constitutional safeguards, democratic oversight, and public trust.  In this case, it also undermines legislative efforts to promote progressive immigration reform.  Lawmakers should take action to prevent such debacles from occurring by either halting failed privatization schemes. For example, Indiana Rep. Gail Riecken’s introduced a bill to end privatization of social services in her state.  Legislators can also consider requiring augmented transparency of state contracting, much like initiatives in Alabama,  Hawaii, and Vermont.

Immigration Policy Center – US Border Enforcement Prioritizes Non-Violent Migrants Over Dangerous Criminals
Immigration Policy Center – New Data on Federal Court Prosecutions Reveal Non-Violent Immigration Prosecutions Up
Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse – Immigration Prosecutions at Record Levels in FY 2009
Immigration Policy Center –  Throwing Good Money After Bad: Immigration Enforcement Without Immigration Reform Doesn’t Work
University of California, Berkeley Law School Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity and Diversity – Assembly-Line Justice: A Review of Operation Streamline
Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy – Are Florida’s Private Prisons Keeping Their Promise
Private Corrections Institute – Quick Facts About Prison Privatization
Private Corrections Institute – Report on Prison Privatization Plagued with Conflicts of Interest, Faulty Data, Political Connections
Progressive States Network – Privatization During an Economic Downturn: Still Inefficient and Problematic
OneAmerica – Voices from Detention: A Report on Human Rights Violations at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma Washington
AFSCME – Prison Privatization Resources