Include ACLU in talks
about youth facility


The ACLU has urged Gov. Lingle to correct overcrowded, unsanitary and abusive conditions at the state youth detention facility.

AN investigation by the American Civil Liberties Union about physical abuse of children by guards at the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility led to the removal last August of the prison's administrator and a corrections specialist. The ACLU says abuses still are occurring and complains about being excluded from related meetings of state officials. State officials should work with the ACLU to rid the prison of problems, recognizing the organization as legal representative of the state wards but not as a partner with the state in making policy.

The ACLU provided an important service last year in conducting an investigation of the Kailua facility after Brent White, then its legal director, received anonymous calls. White then was allowed by the state to have access to the 70 teenage wards.

The youths were more candid with White, who assured them confidentiality under the premise of attorney-client privilege, than they had been with representatives of the Attorney General's Office. They reported being forced to sit naked in cells and to relieve themselves in buckets, and repeatedly being beaten by guards. Girls said they were sexually harassed and assaulted, and their privacy was invaded.

White set forth the allegations in a 34-page report to Gov. Lingle, and the attorney general launched an investigation into the alleged violence by guards. When the United Public Workers union, representing the guards, tried to subpoena the names of young inmates who reported being abused by guards to the ACLU, Deputy Attorney General Dan Morris opposed the move, which failed.

In response to the ACLU's report, state officials have been meeting to address problems at the youth prison. However, Lois Perrin, White's successor at the ACLU, alleges that overcrowding and "excessive and abusive force" against youths by guards still exist. She complained in a letter to Lingle about "acknowledged but uncorrected deficiencies" at the facility, and recommended that the "collaborative effort" be put back on track.

Sharon Agnew, executive director of the Office of Youth Services, says state officials plan to invite the ACLU to future meetings, but she is right in suggesting the organization is presumptuous to "demand a place at a table" in policy-making sessions. However, the ACLU is more than a mere observer or lobby on this matter; it is providing its legal services to the state's young wards and should be recognized as their attorney in these circumstances.


More government
intervention needed to
boost obesity fight


A report published in a medical journal shows that Americans are as overweight and obese as they were four years ago.

NUMEROUS studies and calls for action have failed to deter what has been described as the epidemic of obesity. A new report shows that American adults and children are just as overweight and obese today as they were four years ago. Government has been too slow to respond to the problem.

State Rep. Maile Shimabukuro, of Waianae, told other state legislators and health officials from around the country at a conference in Atlanta this week about her frustration in trying to ban vending machines with soft drinks in schools, which benefit from the revenue they receive from vendors. Her bill never reached the House floor, but the state Board of Education adopted a policy in April that might require that as much as 80 percent of the drink selections in the machines be healthful beverages, such as fruit juices and milk.

Shimabukuro told participants in the conference sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that she has had more success with "community initiatives" away from the Capitol. Those include the creation of an organic farm and farmers' market to encourage people to eat more fruits and vegetables.

She also cited the efforts by Terry Shintani, of the Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center, to encourage Hawaiians to return to traditional and healthier diets. Shintani, a vegetarian and author of several books about nutrition, blames the federal government for farm subsidies that result in unhealthy food for low prices. "Where's the responsibility there?" he asked the Star-Bulletin's Mark Coleman in a recent "First Sunday" interview.

Despite the recent public concern about obesity, a report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows no decline in 2001-02 from 1999-2000. Measurements of more than 8,000 adults and children show that 65 percent of adults were overweight and 31.5 percent were obese, according to a formula using a height-to-weight ratio. Among children ages 6 to 19, 31.5 percent were overweight and 16.5 percent were obese, using a formula that also includes age and sex.



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