Kentucky inmates back in Hawaii


POSTED: Thursday, September 03, 2009

After allegations of sexual assaults on 23 women by staff at a Kentucky prison, 128 Hawaii women returned to Oahu Tuesday night.

Among the 128 were two women who alleged they were sexually assaulted at the Otter Creek Correctional Center in Wheelwright, Ky., said Department of Public Safety Deputy Director Tommy Johnson.

The move came on the same day as the indictment of a sixth worker at the private women's prison on charges of first-degree rape.

The indictment alleges that ex-corrections officer Charles Prater, 54, raped an inmate from Hawaii on June 13. That inmate says that Prater planned the rape, bursting into her cell in the Medical Segregation Unit, and savagely attacking her while the medical staff was dispensing medication.

Another inmate, who also reported being sexually assaulted and whose sentence was up, returned Aug. 17 with a group of 40 inmates.

Hawaii had sent 168 women to be housed at Otter Creek to cut costs. The cost to house an inmate at Hawaii's Women's Community Correctional Center is $86 a day compared with $58.46 a day in Kentucky. Female inmates from Hawaii have been housed at Otter Creek since 2005.

The Kentucky prison is owned and operated by the Corrections Corp. of America, which is based in Tennessee. A task force from Hawaii visited the prison in July to investigate the allegations.

According to a Louisville Courier-Journal article yesterday, Prater could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Eighty-nine of the women who were transferred Tuesday are being housed at WCCC and about a third are being housed at the federal detention center.

More than 100 Hawaii inmates had signed a petition saying they wanted to remain at the Kentucky prison because of the programs there.

Public Safety Director Clayton Frank said he would consider sending the women to a mainland prison closer to Hawaii, perhaps on the West Coast. But he said he would have to consider what laws in that area say about sexual assault by prison employees, as well as whether the prison can provide programs.

Under Hawaii law, any sexual contact between a guard and a prisoner is considered rape and is a felony, but under Kentucky law it is a misdemeanor.

He said the prisons must be safe and secure and must provide treatment and program needs.