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Wednesday, July 17, 2024 | Back issues
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Disturbing Complaint Against Private Prison

(CN) - The nation's largest private prison company's "negligence, recklessness, and flagrant failure to protect" an inmate allowed other prisoners to stab him 140 times, killing him, the dead man's family claims in Hawaii state court.

Hawaii has sent state prisoners to Corrections Corporation of America prisons in Arizona for years, for budget reasons.

The family of the late Bronson Nunuha, who died at 26, sued Hawaii and its Department of Public Safety, the Corrections Corporation of America and numerous officials in the state and the private company, in Hawaii's First Circuit Court.

Nunuha's family claims Bronson was stabbed more than 140 times on Feb. 18, 2010, after the privately owned prison failed to adequately staff his cell block and housed him with gang members.

The family says that before he died, Bronson Nunuha also was punched, kicked and stomped by two gang members in his cell at CCA's Saguaro Correctional Facility in Eloy, southeast of Phoenix.

The family says the killers also carved the name of their gang into Bronson's chest. According to the 50-page complaint, a group of inmates distracted the one counselor on duty in the cell block that day, defendant Nyoka Clark, during the murder, and other inmates mopped up the bloody footprints leading away from Nunuha's cell while his assailants "showered, changed clothes, and re-mingled with other prisoners."

Nunuha's family claims CCA "received millions of dollars in Hawaii taxpayer money between 1995 and 2010, yet CCA and its officers, managers, employees, and agents failed to spend those dollars on reasonable and necessary safety measures and adequate staffing for the cell blocks holding Hawaii prisoners."

Nunuha's murder, which took place at about 9 a.m. was not discovered by Clark until 9:36 a.m., his family says in the complaint.

CCA put Nunuha into its Special Housing Incentive Program (SHIP), where it "mixed convicts of every level of dangerousness, and gang members with rival gang members and unaffiliated prisoners," the complaint states.

Nunuha was placed in segregated housing until he agreed to participate in the special housing program, the family claims.

"After gang members in the SHIP threatened Bronson's safety ... CCA and its officers, managers, employees, and agents repeatedly ignored his requests for a transfer to a different housing unit where he would be safer," the complaint states.

The family claims the private prison "failed to follow basic common-sense correctional practices that would have prevented his brutal murder at the hands of the violent criminals surrounding him."

Clark was the only counselor on duty on the day of Nunuha's murder, and she "was known to conduct 'office hours' during morning dayroom time, leaving cell doors in the SHIP II housing unit open while she did so," according to the complaint.

This provided the "perfect opportunity for violence among rival gang members deliberately mixed in the SHIP II unit, and for prisoners already known to CCA to be predatory to attack more vulnerable prisoners," the family says.

Nunuha had been convicted of second-degree burglary, attempted second-degree burglary, and third-degree criminal property damage in Maui in 2006, and was sentenced to 5 years in prison, according to the complaint. He was scheduled to be released in October 2010.

According to the lawsuit, Hawaii law allows for the return of prisoners from out-of-state prisons at least 1 year before their release dates. Nunuha should have returned to Hawaii in October 2009, but CCA and Hawaii officials kept him at the private prison until his death, according to the complaint.

Nunuha's family seeks punitive damages for wrongful death, negligence and cruel and unusual punishment, among other claims.

They are represented by Daniel Gluck with the ACLU of Hawaii.

Named as defendants in the complaint are the State of Hawaii; Hawaii Department of Public Safety; Jodie Maesaka-Hirata, director of the Hawaii Department of Public Safety; Clayton Frank, former director of the Hawaii Department of Public Safety; Joe Booker Jr., deputy director of the Hawaii Department of Public Safety; Tommy Johnson, former deputy director of the Hawaii Department of Public Safety; Scott Jinbo; Jeanette Baltero; Carol Payne; Larry Hales; Maureen Tito; Shari Kimoto; Corrections Corporation of America; Nyoka Clark; Christine Frappiea; Frank Garcia; Jesus Guilin; Timothy Dobson; Alfred Trejo; Assistant Warden Ben Griego; Assistant Warden Kalum Kalani; Warden Todd Thomas; and Assistant Chief of Security Sean Meiner.

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