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Thursday, November 2, 2000

Isle inmates sue for
alleged rapes

By Debra Barayuga

Three female Hawaii inmates who claim they were sexually assaulted by employees of a mainland prison have filed lawsuits against the state of Hawaii and the Central Oklahoma Correctional Facility.

The lawsuits, filed yesterday by Honolulu attorney Michael Green, do not identify the women, who go by Jane Doe because they fear retaliation.

The suits contend the state and the Oklahoma prison knew about a widespread pattern of inmate rapes at the facility but have done nothing to ensure the safety of inmates.

Central Oklahoma Correctional Facility is run by warden Howard Ray. Besides Ray, prison employees named in the suit include William Sweat, Jill Jo Watson, William Conner, Les Sullivan and Todd Rowell.

Ted Sakai, director of the Hawaii Department of Corrections, declined to respond to the allegations in the suit, saying he hasn't seen them, but he said an investigation is ongoing.

The department received a sexual assault complaint from an inmate on the mainland in April and heard of other similar instances, Sakai said. He said he immediately asked for an investigation by Central Oklahoma officials.

The prison investigated and could not substantiate the allegations involving that inmate. The local sheriff's department also decided not to pursue it.

Sakai said he asked the Department of Corrections in Oklahoma to investigate all the instances of alleged assaults since it has oversight responsibility over all private prisons in the state and has law enforcement authority.

"We feel we responded properly, and the investigation is continuing -- it's not closed yet," Sakai said.

Complaints involving sexual assaults "are very serious and we investigate every one of them," he said. "Every time we hear of complaints here or on the mainland where our inmates are, we take it seriously."

Eighty female Hawaii inmates are housed at Central Oklahoma.

One inmate contends she was raped by Sullivan on March 3 and denied follow-up medical care.

Another inmate, the suit alleges, was subjected to unwanted sexual contact, including intercourse, by Rowell on "numerous occasions" outside and inside Central Oklahoma. She tested positive in a pregnancy test in November 1998 and was taken to a medical unit, without her consent, where an abortion was performed.

Another inmate filed a grievance with Central Oklahoma prison administrators on Sept. 7 about Rowell's conduct as a "sexual predator" before the other inmate became pregnant from Rowell. The prison took no action against Rowell, the suit said. The same inmate contends she was improperly medicated and forced to go naked or wear only panties in her cell in view of male employees, allegedly to make her behave.

Correctional Services Corp. of Florida has contracted with the state of Hawaii since August 1998 to house female Hawaii inmates.

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