State ships
girls to Utah

Prison-advocacy groups say
more should have been done to
keep the inmates closer to home

The state has completed the transfer of six girls from the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility to a detention center in Utah, and a civil rights group plans to keep close tabs on their well-being during the scheduled two-month stay, officials said yesterday.

Three girls were transferred to an undisclosed Salt Lake City facility Monday, while the remaining three were taken there Tuesday, said Sharon Agnew, executive director of the state Office of Youth Services.

Prison reform advocates and the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii criticized the move, saying the state did not look hard enough to find programs for the girls closer to home.

"This highlights the need for alternative placement programs within the state," said Lois Perrin, legal director for the ACLU of Hawaii. "The ACLU will continue to monitor the situation by keeping in frequent contact with the girls.

"We will do everything we can to ensure that the girls are brought home safely within 60 days as the state had promised."

State officials, who announced the transfer last week, insist the move is temporary and will help ease overcrowding at the facility while they continue to try and reduce the overall population before the girls return.

The transfer will allow some of the 54 boys currently housed in 30 cells to move into the 10 cells in the girls' unit. In the meantime, reform efforts at the youth prison will continue renovations of buildings and staff members receiving additional training, Agnew said.

Girls who are assigned to the facility will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine if there is a suitable program for them locally or if they should be sent to Utah.

"We're challenged to address our crowding issues and yet not change anything," Agnew said. "The reality is if we are going to make HYCF a better facility, we have to make some hard decisions, and we have to move it forward. I think we're doing this."

Agnew said she did not have exact figures on how much it would cost the state to house the six girls in Utah for two months.

Kaleve Tufono-Iosefa, HYCF administrator, has said a mainland detention center was chosen because the girls kept running away from community programs in Hawaii.

Kat Brady, coordinator for the Community Alliance on Prisons reform advocacy group, criticized the state for not doing enough to work with the girls and find programs that best suit them.

"We can't give up and say, 'They ran away from one or two programs, they're incorrigible,'" Brady said. "What we have to say is, 'What kind of services do these girls actually need, and if programs in Hawaii don't have them, how do we get the services into that program?' instead of shipping those girls far away."

Perrin said she has been told that the girls will have telephone privileges, adding that the ACLU is working with authorities to set up videoconference calls.

However, "Videoconferencing is no substitute for personal contact," she said. "The ACLU is obviously disappointed that the state could not come up with six placements for these girls."

ACLU Hawaii


Department of Human Services




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