I'm really outraged to hear the details of this abuse at Saguaro, but not at all surprised, sadly. The uncommon thing is that it's no longer invisible to the rest of us. Those prisoners have guts for coming forward; they put themselves on the line more than most of us can imagine. Sounds like they were between a rock and hard place as it was, though. Blessings to each and every one of them - they will make a difference for all.
Mahalo nui, guys.
To the families and supporters of Hawai'i prisoners here, PLEASE contact me so we can coordinate how best to support these guys. We can help you put together a Hawai'i Prison Watch site to stay on top of this and hold Abercrombie to his promise to bring them home, but we can't do it without you.
18 Hawaii Inmates At Mainland Prison Sue State
Inmates Say Arizona Guards Beat, Threaten To Kill Them
Denby Fawcett, KITV 4 News Reporter
HONOLULU -- Eighteen Hawaii inmates have sued the state of Hawaii and the Corrections Corporation of America.The inmates claimed they were stripped, beaten and kicked by guards in Saguaro Correctional Center in Arizona.
The prisoners said they were targeted after a guard was seriously hurt when he tried to break up a prison gang fight at Saguaro Correctional Center where they are incarcerated.
The suit was filed Monday by attorneys Michael Jay Green and John Rapp in Circuit Court in Honolulu.
The inmates are among 1,840 Hawaii prisoners serving sentences at Saguaro in Eloy, Ariz. The prison is run by the Corrections Corporation of America.
Saguaro was built to exclusively house Hawaii offenders because of prison overcrowding in Hawaii.
Attorney Rapp said the 18 inmates suing claim Saguaro guards have beaten and threatened them regularly after stripping them down to their underwear and hauling them out of their cells, one by one."The guards are banging their heads on tables, threatening them, beating them, kicking them, punching them," said Rapp.
In written statements the inmates have sent to Rapp, they say they have been forced to stand in the cold in their underwear, kicked while they are on the ground, and denied the opportunity to change their clothes for days. The inmates claim Saguaro guards are trying to coerce them to write statements about a prison gang fight July 26 in which a prison guard was severely beaten. They said the guards shove a pen into their hands and urge them to write about the incident.
"The inmates, of course, were reluctant to say things about other inmates. The last thing they want to do in prison is be a rat because that is pretty much a death sentence," said Rapp.
Rapp said Saguaro guards have also told the Hawaii inmates they will kill them or keep beating them until the prisoners commit suicide to stop the pain.
Rapp said the guards' threats to the inmates have continued up until the present.
Rapp said this week a Saguaro guard told an inmate if he and the others did not withdraw the lawsuit, "he would be cut into a million pieces. His mother would never see him again. So, the threats are continuing."
The suit asks for monetary damages and an injunction to stop the inmate beatings.
"We need to put a stop to the threats. We want to put a stop to the violence and to make sure it doesn't happen again," said Rapp.
Both the Hawaii's prisons department and the Corrections Corporation of America said Tuesday they will reserve comment until they have been served with the lawsuit and had time to review it.
Saguaro Prison is no stranger to violence. In June at Saguaro Clifford Medina, a 23-year-old Hawaii inmate was killed. His cellmate later admitted to Eloy, Arizona police he strangled Medina. And in February, Hawaii prisoner Bronson Nunuha died after he was stabbed multiple times in the neck. Two Hawaii inmates were charged with first degree murder and face a possible death sentence in that case.
Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) promised in his campaign this year to bring Hawaii prisoners home from the mainland. In a written statement, Abercrombie said today: "The violence involving Hawaii inmates at Saguaro Correctional Facility underscores why we need to stop sending prisoners out of state. We are facing many challenges in the state and we need to work together to find solutions that include bringing our inmates home."
Abercrombie said he is committed to building more prisons in Hawaii that are safe and set high standards for corrections staff.