Thursday, July 29, 2004

Journalists are invited
to inspect youth prison

The facility director insists that
reforms are being implemented

Amid allegations of ongoing mistreatment of teenagers at Hawaii's youth prison -- including the alleged beating of an inmate just days ago -- state officials took journalists on a tour of the facility yesterday and repeated pledges to enact reforms.

"I think what we need to emphasize is the fact that we're taking immediate action right away," said Kaleve Tufono-Iosefa, administrator of the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility. "We're not ignoring it."

Lois Perrin, legal director for the Hawaii chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said her office was informed that an inmate was allegedly beaten by a guard sometime since Friday.

"We remain concerned about the safety of the kids that are in the state's custody," Perrin said, adding that her office also was investigating.

Such charges were first raised by the ACLU last August in a report alleging assaults, harassment, severe overcrowding, unduly harsh discipline and other abuses by guards, including the rape of a female inmate.

Gov. Linda Lingle immediately removed the facility's top two administrators, and the attorney general's office has since filed criminal charges against two guards, one of whom, Lia Olione, was sentenced last week to 15 years in prison on charges stemming from the rape.

Last month, Tufono-Iosefa said a guard was reassigned within the lockup after a teenager there was allegedly beaten on June 11.

State officials said they are addressing the ACLU's concerns, most notably working with courts to reduce the facility's population.

The population yesterday numbered 63 -- 53 boys and 10 girls. The youth facility has 30 cells for boys and 10 for girls, leading to many boys doubling up in cells with mattresses on the floors.

Journalists touring the facility were able to observe inmates as they studied, participated in classes, watched a video, performed chores or played basketball in the recreation area. Media were barred from conducting interviews.


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