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Old 02-26-2005, 09:13 PM
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Thumbs down Colorado,Hawaii, and Wyoming Female Inmates Sexually Assaulted in Colorado Facility

Print version - © COPYRIGHT 2005 The Honolulu Advertiser - Hawaii's Newspaper , a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

Posted on: Saturday, February 26, 2005

Female inmates claim prison staff sex abuse

By Kevin Dayton
Advertiser Staff Writer

Two Hawai'i women are among eight female inmates in a privately run Colorado prison who are accusing staff members of sexual misconduct.

Two corrections officers have resigned and a prison counselor has been put on administrative leave at Brush Correctional Facility outside of Denver, said Colorado Department of Corrections spokeswoman Alison Morgan.

Prison warden Rick Soares also resigned on Feb. 18, but Morgan said there is no indication of any wrongdoing by Soares in connection with the accusations.

Investigators reviewed a variety of rape and other sexual misconduct allegations, but were unable to substantiate any allegations that prison staff forced inmates to have sex, Morgan said.

In each case, investigators concluded the prisoners consented to the sexual contact, Morgan said. Those cases were forwarded to prosecutors for criminal charges because under Colorado law, even consensual sexual contact between an inmate and a corrections officer is a crime.

"It's a felony, it won't be tolerated, we will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law," Morgan said.

Hawai'i has 79 female inmates in Brush because of insufficient room in the Women's Community Correctional Center in Kailua, the only women's prison in Hawai'i. The Hawai'i inmates last August were moved from a state-run Oklahoma prison to the Brush prison, operated by GRW Corp.

Soares reported the allegations of sexual misconduct to Colorado authorities on Jan. 11, and a team from the Colorado Department of Corrections was sent to the prison to investigate, Morgan said.

Kat Brady, legislative coordinator for the American Civil Liberties Union in Hawai'i, said she has discussed the case with one of the Hawai'i inmates involved, and said the inmate reported she and another Hawai'i prisoner were coerced into performing a sex act for a corrections officer.

"What she told me is completely opposite from the story that we're getting from Colorado," Brady said.

One charge of sexual misconduct in a penal institution was filed against one of the corrections officers last week, and a second charge against the same officer is pending. One charge is pending against a second officer, and four counts of sexual misconduct are pending against the prison counselor, Morgan said.

The Brush prison for women has 250 beds, and houses 73 Colorado inmates and 43 Wyoming inmates along with the 79 Hawai'i prisoners.

The inmates involved in the sexual misconduct allegations include two each from Colorado and Hawai'i, and four from Wyoming.

In some cases there are indications inmates initiated or agreed to sexual contact "for their own personal gain," Morgan said.

At least one Hawai'i inmate and one Wyoming inmate said they had sex with the officers believing they would be sent home to be closer to family, while others hoped to file lawsuits against the prison, she said.

"That doesn't make it any better. It was reprehensible behavior on the part of the officers," Morgan said.

Myles Breiner, a Honolulu lawyer who is representing two of the Hawai'i inmates, offered a different version of events. He said both Hawai'i women were forced to perform a sex act for a corrections officer who confronted them in a prison office the night of Jan. 8.

Breiner said the corrections officer shoved one woman against a wall, and threatened to write both women up for misconduct if they did not do as he instructed. One of the women is eligible for parole, and a misconduct write-up likely would have delayed her parole, Breiner said.

Rick Bissen, interim director of the state Department of Public Safety, said a team of Hawai'i monitors just returned from the Brush prison, and he plans to meet with them.

Bissen said the state's first concern is the safety of the inmates, and he is waiting to see the results of the Colorado investigation. He said Hawai'i may conduct its own inquiry.

Mike Gaede, spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, said the two Hawai'i inmates filed complaints over the alleged sexual misconduct and have already been returned to the Kailua women's prison.

Bissen said there are no immediate plans to move the rest of the inmates out of the Brush prison, but added that "if more allegations come forth, we will certainly consider all our options."

Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona said he was appalled at the report from Colorado.

"This is the worst kind of crime that could happen, and we're hoping it's prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. You can't tolerate that kind of activity," he said.

Aiona said that in a perfect world, Hawai'i wouldn't have to send inmates to the Mainland. He said a goal of the Lingle administration is to reduce the inmate population and to establish more prisons in the Islands.

A number of observers have criticized the state's practice of exporting prisoners to private facilities on the Mainland, including Brady of the ACLU. The program is particularly hard on women with children, she said.

"I think women are primarily the main caregivers to their children, and when you send a woman out of state, the chances of her ever seeing her children while she's away are slim to none. Most families can't afford the trip. They can't even afford the phone calls," Brady said.

"I believe the department has an obligation to keep families connected."

This is not the first time there have been allegations of sexual misconduct between women prisoners and prison staffs.

Hawai'i inmates in 2000 and 2001 filed lawsuits over similar allegations of sexual misconduct by staff working at the Central Oklahoma Correctional Facility, a privately run Oklahoma prison. Those suits against the private operator Dominion Group were later settled out of court, and the terms of the settlement were never made public.

In the early 1990s, there were similar accusations of sexual misconduct involving female prisoners at WCCC, the state-run prison in Kailua. About two dozen corrections workers were fired or charged with crimes in connection with a series of cases, and the state paid nearly $1 million to settle several lawsuits filed by female prisoners who alleged they were sexually abused.

Staff writer Tim Hurley contributed to this report. Reach Kevin Dayton at (808) 935-3916 or kdayton@honoluluadvertiser.com.


September 10th 2009
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