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.

Hawaii AG report blasts "humonetarianism" and dependence on private prisons

This document could go a long way towards changing the Hawai’i prison system; I’m impressed that it was released by the state Attorney General. That, in turn, could have ripples elsewhere – certainly in Eloy, AZ, where Corrections Corporation of America incarcerates nearly 2000 Hawai’ians.  Eloy has real problems – as does CCA.18 Hawai’ian prisoners are suing employees at Saguaro prison there for torture, and one is suing for sexual assault (the guard who perpetrated it was actually prosecuted).  

All either Eloy or CCA seem to be concerned with is the money they can make in Arizona, of course, not reducing crime or victimization in Hawai’i or human rights abuses in their own community. If Hawai’ian legislators don’t get on the ball with sentencing and prison reform, they should be called out as either incompetent or corrupt – no one can afford for any of them to be indifferent to the prison crisis anymore.

Read the report this links to, then find your state legislators here.

Call or write to them here:

Senate Clerk’s Office

State Capitol, Room 10
415 South Beretania Street
Honolulu, HI 96813
(808)586-6720 phone
(808)586-6719 fax

House Clerk’s Office
State Capitol, Room 27
415 South Beretania Street
Honolulu, HI 96813
(808)586-6400 phone
(808)586-6401 fax

The key term is “evidence-based practice”. Good luck. I hope you manage to wage a successful boycott of Eloy and CCA by the time this battle is over. Israel outlawed private prisons because the profit motive is in direct opposition to human rights concerns – maybe Hawai’i will abandon them as well, for all the right reasons.


Here’s the Executive Summary:

This study examined the records of the 660 persons who were released on parole in the State of Hawaii between July 1, 2005 and June 30, 2006 (Fiscal Year 2006). It addresses two main questions: What are the demographic and criminal history profiles of parolees who have been incarcerated in Hawaii and in private prisons out of state? And, how do the recidivism rates of these two groups compare? Using records obtained from the Hawaii Paroling Authority, the Department of Public Safety, and the Department of the Attorney General, parolees were tracked for three to four years after their release from prison.

The study found that:

– 54 percent of Hawaii’s prisoners are incarcerated in private prisons on the mainland — the highest percentage among all U.S. states.

– As of the end of 2009, it cost approximately $118 per day to incarcerate an inmate in Hawaii, and at least $62 per day to incarcerate him or her in a private prison on the mainland. Note, however, that unlike the in-state per day cost, the private prison cost estimate is not all-inclusive.

– 75 percent of Fiscal Year 2006 parolees never served time in a private prison on the mainland, while 25 percent did serve time there.

– Of the one-quarter of parolees who have been imprisoned on the mainland, 70 percent served half or more of their time there.

– The average time served on the mainland was 3.5 years.

The analysis of the parolees’ demographic and criminal history profiles found that:

– Parolees averaged 56 total prior arrests and 24 convictions per parolee, including an average of 20 prior felony arrests and 8 felony convictions.

– Parolees in the mainland cohort had somewhat more felony arrests and felony convictions per person than did parolees in the Hawaii cohort.

– Parolees in the mainland cohort had been convicted of fewer property and drug crimes, and more violent and “other” offenses, than had the parolees in the Hawaii cohort.

– The average maximum sentence for parolees who had been incarcerated on the mainland was longer: 10.9 years, versus 8.5 years for the Hawaii cohort.

– The average time served by the mainland cohort was longer: 6.2 years, versus 3.2 years for the Hawaii cohort.

– The mainland cohort included substantially more males than did the Hawaii cohort: 20 male parolees for every female parolee in the mainland group, versus 4 male parolees for every female parolee in the Hawaii group.

– As compared to their male counterparts, female parolees in both cohorts were more likely to be property and drug crime offenders.

– There were no statistically significant differences in ethnicity between the two parole cohorts. Most notably, Native Hawaiians comprised 40 percent of each cohort.

The analysis of recidivism found that:

– Parolees in the mainland cohort received significantly lower scores on the Level of Service Inventory-Revised (LSI-R). Hence, mainlanders had fewer needs for service and a lower average risk of recidivism than did parolees in the Hawaii cohort.

– In the aggregate, the LSI-R scores predicted recidivism fairly well.

– A little more than half of parolees in both cohorts failed on parole within three years.

– The average time to recidivism in both cohorts was about 15 months.

– The recidivism rate for the mainland cohort (53 percent) was slightly lower than the recidivism rate for the Hawaii cohort (56 percent), but this difference is not statistically significant.

– There was more recidivism among the mainland cohort for parolees in the higher-risk LSI-R categories.

– There was more recidivism among the mainland cohort for violating conditions of parole.

– Nearly half of all rearrests were for violating the conditions of parole.

– In both cohorts, older people recidivated less than did younger people. Age is a powerful ally of efforts to stop criminal offending.

– There were few significant differences between the two cohorts in acts of misconduct committed while in prison.

– Parolees in the mainland cohort were more likely to violate parole conditions than were parolees in the Hawaii group.

– Furlough programs were related to significantly lower rates of recidivism among mainland parolees, but not among parolees who were imprisoned only in Hawaii.

Recommendations from this study:

– Since there is no empirical justification for the policy argument that private prisons reduce recidivism better than public prisons, the State of Hawaii should decide whether to continue, discontinue, expand, or contract its reliance on private prisons based on other criteria. While cost is one criterion, it is not the only one that is important to consider.

– It is ill-advised to rely on a framework for thinking about corrections (herein termed humonetarianism) that stresses short-term financial savings at the expense of programs aimed at improving the prospects for offenders’ rehabilitation and the satisfaction of their basic needs and rights. Long-term savings are often found in forward-thinking policies and programs.

– The State of Hawaii needs to calculate more inclusive and accurate estimates of the cost of incarceration in-state and in private prisons on the mainland.

– Much more research needs to be done in order to adequately describe the contours and consequences of Hawaii’s correctional policy. One high priority is a study that explores who gets sent to prison (and where). The present study examined only persons who were released on parole.

– The State of Hawaii should conduct more research about its correctional policies and outcomes, especially given a policy world that is increasingly evidence-based.

– The Department of Public Safety and the Hawaii Paroling Authority need an integrated records management system. At present, inmates’ records are often incomplete, scattered, and difficult to locate.

Exile to the Desert: 3 more years of CCA’s abuse.

Shame on the state of Hawaii for continuing this contract after all the abuses (including torture and the sexual assault of a prisoner by a guard) that have occurred in Saguaro Correctional Center in the prison town of Eloy under CCA’s watch. The people of the Islands should oppose this vociferously…your prisoners are just in for more abuse at the hands of Arizonans – especially your Indigenous. In fact, following this news article is a link to a decent piece by a friend of mine, Frank Smith from Private Corrections Institute, who’s an expert on the private prison industry. He did some extensive research into the experience of Native Americans in private prisons – it’s worth reading.


State Signs New Three-Year Arizona Prison Deal

Hawaii Reporter

June 23, 2011

BY JIM DOOLEY – The state has signed a new, three-year contract with Corrections Corporation of America to house up to 1,900 prison inmates at private prisons in Arizona.

The price carries a one per cent increase over the curent contract with CCA, which expires at the end of the month. The Department of Public Safety will pay CCA $63.85 per inmate per day. The old rate was $63.22.

CCA is believed to have submitted the sole bid for the contract.

The new deal, which carries two possible one-year contract extensions, was signed as Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s administration is making plans to end the longstanding policy of imprisoning Hawaii inmates in out-of-state facilities.

Public Safety officials are drawing up a plan for the return of out-of-state prisoners, but its completion is sometime in the future and will depend on construction of new correctional facilities here and development of new community-based programs for men and women now locked behind bars.

The Hawaii State Auditor said in a report issued late last year the total cost of the private prison program more than tripled since 2001, from just under $20 million to more than $60 million.

The per-day charges under the new contract would total some $44.3 million, although there are millions the state must pay in associated costs which the contract with CCA doesn’t cover.

The actual number of Hawaii inmates now held at CCA’s Saguaro Correctional Facility in Eloy, Arizona is now believed to have dropped under 1,800 as the state has stepped up efforts to bring certain categories of prisoners home.

Some 60 Hawaii inmates are also being held at CCA’s Red Rock Correctional Facility, next door to the Saguaro complex.

————————–Native Americans in Private Prisons——————

Native Americans in Private Prisons.

Arizona Prison Watch
Friday, December 3, 2010

The following is the intro to a piece written by my friend Frank Smith, an expert on private prisons with the Private Corrections Working Group (where I dig up all those rap sheets on prison profiteers). Here’s the testimony he gave to the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons several years back – which makes some good points still relevant to the violence and abuse of prisoners at CCA’s Idaho Correctional Center, among other places.

Follow the link for the full text of the article, which I found posted to a great website on Lenape (Delaware Indian) culture and issues. The article was originally published as a chapter in the book “Capitalist Punishment: Prison Privatization and Human Rights” (Elizabeth Alexander, et al), a worthwhile text for any library on crime and punishment.


Incarceration of Native Americans and Private Prisons
By Frank Smith


There are currently slightly over two million inmates in local, state and federal jails and prisons. Of these, some 1.6 percent are Native Americans and Hawaiian Natives; in Federal institutions, Native Americans constitute 2 percent of the population, since the U.S. government is involved in criminal justice enforcement on reservations. Because approximately 6 percent of all U.S. inmates are held in private prisons, the total number of Native Americans in these for-profit prisons is comparatively rather small. For that reason, this article presents a picture of the conditions in which Native Americans are held given that limited experience.

Historical Perspective

In order to achieve an informed understanding of the current situation with regard to Native Americans in prison, it is necessary to place it within a larger historical and sociological context. While most residents of the US have the notion their country was founded on the principles of justice and freedom, closer examination reveals that perception is not accurate, particularly in the case of Native Americans.1

The more progressive of our founding fathers whom we remember so fondly as protectors of these ideals include Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson. Paine consistently referred to Indians as “savages”, and used them as a negative comparative stereotype. Jefferson considered his contemporary Indians to be hindrances to colonial progress. The US only granted Natives citizenship in 1924, five years after women and 59 years after Black males were allowed to vote.

African Americans have undoubtedly been pervasively discriminated against in US history–their dehumanization was even embodied in the Constitution. Schoolchildren learn of the more egregious Supreme Court-approved violations of the rights of Blacks such as the Dred Scott decision or Plessy v. Feurgeson,2 and that the Civil War was fought in part over slavery.

They may have read the Emancipation Proclamation and even the Thirteenth to Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution. The sordid history in America of slave owning, in the north and south, of lynching, of Jim Crow, is discussed in most schools. The role of such historic figures as Frederick Douglas or Sojourner Truth is widely recognized. Martin Luther King Jr., is certainly better known than many mediocre presidents. Selma, Alabama, and Little Rock, Arkansas are familiar mileposts, as is Brown v. Board of Education. Students may even understand the meaning of racial profiling, of the immensedisparity between sentencing for crack cocaine, more prevalent in inner-city neighborhoods, and powdered cocaine, more favored by wealthier uburbanites.

They may possibly be aware that a Black adolescent has perhaps a 50 times greater chance of being placed in an adult penal institution than a white youth who has been charged with exactly the same crime,3 and that perhaps one of three young Black men has been subjected to some criminal sanction, such as probation, parole, jail or prison.

Yet how many Americans, young or old, fully understand that this same disenfranchisement; this same disproportionate treatment by the criminal justice system, has affected Native Americans since the Articles of Confederation were signed? How many realize that broken treaties have been the order of the day for over two hundred years? Do they know that the early settlement of this nation involved pushing indigenous peoples into ever smaller, less habitable reservations?

How many school children are taught the cruel facts behind the genocidal removal of the inhabitants of the post-Revolutionary Southeast? There is hardly a Native American tribe that does not have a history of broken treaties and persecution. What this long, troubled relationship between European Americans and Natives constitutes is deliberate disregard for and discrimination against Native culture. Theft of lands, exiles, dispossessions, and a prevailing condemnatory and paternalistic attitude provide the background for the problems of Native Americans in prisons, both public and private, today. It particularly pervades the conditions of confinement of Indians in private prisons…

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.