Saturday, May 12, 2001

Arizona private
prison names new
boss after deaths

The Arizona facility is being
evaluated after 2 Hawaii inmates
died there last month

By Nelson Daranciang

The Florence Correctional Center in Arizona, where two Hawaii inmates died last month and three others were severely beaten, has named a new warden.

Frank Luna, 38, moves over from Corrections Corporation of America's Huerfano County Correctional Center in Colorado where he had been warden of the medium-security prison since August 1999.

"We feel very positive about the change being made. We have high confidence in Frank Luna and believe Hawaii officials will also feel positive about the change," said Louise Green, vice president of marketing and communications.

State Public Safety Director Ted Sakai was not available to comment on the naming of the new warden.

Luna joined Corrections Corporation of America in 1997 as assistant warden of the Central Arizona Detention Center, also in Florence. Before that he worked for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for more than 15 years.

Green said the previous warden at Florence, Pablo Sedillo, is on administrative leave. Don Stewart, warden at the company's McRae Correctional Facility in Georgia, has been serving as temporary warden at Florence since Monday.

Green said recent incidents involving Hawaii inmates are still being assessed by staff.

She said the personnel changes were made because "we are very proactive when there is need for new leadership and new direction at a facility. We strive to take very prompt action."

She said the company is working very closely with Hawaii officials.

Last month, two Hawaii inmates died and three others were severely beaten at Florence. Iulai Amani, 22, died April 15 of a heart attack after swallowing what is suspected to be a large amount of drugs. The Maricopa County medical examiner's office is awaiting results of toxicology tests done on Amani.

John Kia, 41, died April 26, also of a heart attack. He had had a long history of heart problems and had been taking medication.

Ulysses Kim was hospitalized for three days after prison officials discovered he had a broken nose, swollen cheekbone and black eye.

Victoriano spent a week in the hospital after three to four other Hawaii inmates attacked him in the facility's recreation yard April 14.

Dean Lai suffered a broken jaw in a fight April 6.

Sakai last month said he was concerned for the safety of the Hawaii inmates in Florence, and sent a team to Arizona to evaluate security at the facility.

Since then, officials at Florence have made some changes to improve morale among the inmates, said Karl Stansel, chief of security.

The facility now has an arts-and-crafts program, a wood shop, a landscaping crew, an education program and is even starting a computer lab.

"Just to give the inmates something to do," Stansel said.

Inmates are also being allowed to paint murals in the hallways that remind them of home, to change the atmosphere, he said.

Stansel said that previously, activities for inmates were limited to jobs to maintain the facility.

There are about 1,000 inmates at Florence Correctional Center on any given day; 550 of them are from Hawaii.

The rest are from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and pretrial detainees being held for the U.S. Marshals Service and the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

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