Isle inmate's death sparks investigation
By Mary Adamski
POSTED: 01:30 a.m.
HST, Jun 11, 2010
The 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.
Retiring Arizona Prison Watch...
This site was originally started in July 2009 as an independent endeavor to monitor conditions in Arizona's criminal justice system, as well as offer some critical analysis of the prison industrial complex from a prison abolitionist/anarchist's perspective. It was begun in the aftermath of the death of Marcia Powell, a 48 year old AZ state prisoner who was left in an outdoor cage in the desert sun for over four hours while on a 10-minute suicide watch. That was at ASPC-Perryville, in Goodyear, AZ, in May 2009.
Marcia, a seriously mentally ill woman with a meth habit sentenced to the minimum mandatory 27 months in prison for prostitution was already deemed by society as disposable. She was therefore easily ignored by numerous prison officers as she pleaded for water and relief from the sun for four hours. She was ultimately found collapsed in her own feces, with second degree burns on her body, her organs failing, and her body exceeding the 108 degrees the thermometer would record. 16 officers and staff were disciplined for her death, but no one was ever prosecuted for her homicide. Her story is here.
Marcia's death and this blog compelled me to work for the next 5 1/2 years to document and challenge the prison industrial complex in AZ, most specifically as manifested in the Arizona Department of Corrections. I corresponded with over 1,000 prisoners in that time, as well as many of their loved ones, offering all what resources I could find for fighting the AZ DOC themselves - most regarding their health or matters of personal safety.
I also began to work with the survivors of prison violence, as I often heard from the loved ones of the dead, and learned their stories. During that time I memorialized the Ghosts of Jan Brewer - state prisoners under her regime who were lost to neglect, suicide or violence - across the city's sidewalks in large chalk murals. Some of that art is here.
In November 2014 I left Phoenix abruptly to care for my family. By early 2015 I was no longer keeping up this blog site, save occasional posts about a young prisoner in solitary confinement in Arpaio's jail, Jessie B.
I'm deeply grateful to the prisoners who educated, confided in, and encouraged me throughout the years I did this work. My life has been made all the more rich and meaningful by their engagement.
I've linked to some posts about advocating for state prisoner health and safety to the right, as well as other resources for families and friends. If you are in need of additional assistance fighting the prison industrial complex in Arizona - or if you care to offer some aid to the cause - please contact the Phoenix Anarchist Black Cross at PO Box 7241 / Tempe, AZ 85281. firstname.lastname@example.org
until all are free -
MARGARET J PLEWS (June 1, 2015)