Rape no less a crime when victim is in prison


POSTED: Monday, July 27, 2009

Hawaii has a legal responsibility to protect incarcerated individuals from sexual abuse, no matter how far they are shipped away.

The latest sexual assaults at Otter Creek Facility in Kentucky by correctional staff must not be tolerated and swept under the rug (”;State sends team to Kentucky to check into prison-rape claims,”; Star-Bulletin, July 12). We need independent monitors to conduct a fair and rigorous investigation. Hawaii's Department of Public Safety cannot be relied upon to conduct an independent investigation as they have minimized past claims of sexual abuse, and failed to exercise leadership in creating a culture that promotes safety and prevents, detects and punishes sexual abuse.

Hawaii should follow the lead of other states that have revoked their contracts with private prisons where patterns of sexual assault and violence were exposed. However, the shameful reality is that Hawaii has never pulled the plug on its multimillion dollar contracts with CCA (Corrections Corporations of America) or imposed punitive damages despite ongoing incidents of physical violence and sexual abuse of prisoners. By continuing to contract with CCA, Hawaii is condoning CCA's mismanagement and gross negligent practices that have contributed to sexual abuse and violence in their facilities.

CCA is not accountable to the people of Hawaii. It answers to its shareholders, whose bottom line is profit. Are the people of Hawaii aware that CCA earned $162 million in federal revenues and $218 million in state revenues in 2008? Or that CCA spent over $2 million on lobbying activities through campaign donations and enacting laws that put more people behind bars for longer periods of time?

Closer to home, Gov. Linda Lingle received the maximum amount of campaign donations from CCA. Could this be part of the reason Hawaii continues to be one of CCA's best customers? Do these donations explain Gov. Lingle's response (in the July 12 article) to these sexual allegations: “;It's a very serious charge ... we have a very large contract with this company, and we're going to have to sit with them when we get the report.”;

Sadly, for some people, it's all about the money. But, for the women who have been sexually abused, the resulting harm and trauma will likely last a lifetime. Rape is violent, destructive and a crime — no less so when the victim is incarcerated.



Carrie Ann Shirota lives in Wailuku