Private Prison Beatings Continue, Men Say

     HONOLULU (CN) – Guards for Corrections Corporation of America, the nation’s biggest private prison company, continue to abuse prisoners who sought a protective injunction after CCA guards stripped, beat, kicked and threatened to kill them, and “the warden himself” threatened their families, according to a new complaint in Federal Court.
     Five Hawaiian inmates serving their sentences on the mainland say the co-defendant Hawaii Department of Public Safety is failing to protect Hawaiian prisoners from brutal private prison guards.
     The five inmates at CCA’s Saguaro prison in Eloy, Ariz., say they have suffered continuing retaliation and physical abuse from CCA guards, after the July 2010 prison fight that led to the original lawsuit.
     Eighteen Hawaiian inmates suedCCA in December 2010, seeking a protective injunction; the five inmates who sued this week have asked one too.
     The new complaints echo the complaints made in the first lawsuit, involving a fight in which “a lieutenant or other employee of CCA was injured.”
     CCA gives its workers military-style ranks and titles.
     The plaintiffs claim that guards stripped, beat, kicked and threatened to kill them, banged their heads on tables while they were handcuffed. The original complaint claimed that “the warden himself” threatened inmates’ families.
     The new complaint adds that “Inmates were told that if they did not provide written statements, their beatings would continue. Beatings, in fact, continued for those who refused to provide statements.”
     The men say CCA “deliberately destroyed and failed to preserve evidence of their wrongdoing, including videotapes … intercepted mail, delayed mail, denied mail and interfered with phone calls to family and attorneys” and “deliberately falsified reports.”
     They say that Saguaro’s Warden Todd Thomas participated in the abuses, Hawaii’s on-site Public Safety monitor, John Ioane, did nothing to stop it.
     According to the new complaint:
     “Plaintiffs were stripped of nearly all of their clothing while being beaten, questioned, and humiliated.
     “Plaintiffs were threatened with harm to themselves and their families, including through such statements as:
     “a. ‘We have your emergency contact information;’
     “b. ‘We know who your family is and where they live and we are going to harm them;’
     “c. ‘We are going to kill you;’
     “d. ‘We will continue to beat you and the only way to stop that is to commit suicide;’
     “e. ‘We will send you to hell;’
     “f. ‘We will stick something up your ass.’
     “g. ‘We will smash all the bones in your face.'”
     To conceal the abuses, CCA violated its own policy by refusing to videotape the acts, the complaint states.
     “Inmates were told that if they told anyone what had happened, they would be killed or beaten further.
     “CCA personnel, including the warden himself, threatened parents of some inmates, including with longer incarceration. …
     “Inmates were required to get on their knees with their hands handcuffed behind their back, whereupon they were beaten by multiple officers employed by defendants.
     “Inmates were kicked while on the ground. …
     “Inmates were denied prompt medical treatment for their injuries in an effort to conceal what had happened.
     “Inmates were told that if they did not provide written statements, their beatings would continue.
     “Beatings in fact continued for those who refused to provide statements.”
     In January this year, a Hawaiian inmate suedCCA in Honolulu, claiming CCA prison guard Richard Ketland forced the inmate to give Ketland a blow job in his cell at the Saguaro prison in Arizona. Ketland, 64, was charged with felony unlawful sexual contact, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and was sentenced to probation.
     Another prison “riot” occurred at CCA’s Red Rock prison in Arizona in December 2010.
     The Red Rock prison held about 50 Hawaiian prisoners, and Saguaro about 1,800 Hawaiians. Gov. Neil Abercrombie brought 243 of them back to the islands on Jan. 19-20, placing most of them at three Oahu facilities and 26 on Maui and the Big Island, as Courthouse News reportedat the time.
     Corrections Corporation of America has been sued more than 330 times since 2007, according to the Courthouse News database. Many of the lawsuits involve civil rights violations allegations of violence against inmates.
     Hawaii’s Department of Public Safety did not return a phone call seeking comment.
     But the legal director of the Hawaii branch of the ACLU did.
     “The ACLU of Hawaii has had longstanding concerns about Hawaii’s prison system and, more recently, about the treatment of inmates at CCA facilities. Allegations that CCA guards, paid with Hawaii tax dollars, are brutalizing and threatening Hawaii’s inmates and their families must be immediately, independently and thoroughly investigated,” ACLU legal director Lois K. Perrin said.
     “Allegations concerning the failure of Hawaii’s contract monitor to perform his job properly should also be investigated. The governor should take a strong hand in ensuring that the Department of Public Safety is fulfilling its mandate, and offending government officials should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
     “These allegations are just the latest in a constant barrage of CCA-related complaints. Recently, complaints of sexual harassment at the CCA-run women’s facility in Kentucky were so widespread that the Department of Public Safety removed the women and brought them back to Hawaii. Hawaii’s Auditor issued a blistering report accusing the Department of Public Safety of manipulating CCA cost figures, deliberately reporting false information to the Legislature, and interfering with an independent audit.
     “The ACLU of Hawaii continues to receive hundreds of complaints a year from inmates at Saguaro and their family members, complaining about conditions and about the hardships of having a family member so far from home.
     “Problems will continue to worsen until Hawaii tackles prisonwide reform both as to correctional policies and developing alternatives to incarceration that allow prisoners the opportunity to rehabilitate and reintegrate into their families and communities in a productive way.
     “The governor has promised to bring these inmates back to Hawaii, and the ACLU of Hawaii looks forward to seeing his comprehensive plan for doing so.”
     The five inmates demand a protective and permanent injunction and punitive damages from CCA and Hawaii, alleging breach of duty, assault and battery, cruel and unusual punishment, concealment and retaliation.
     They are represented by Myles Breiner of Honolulu.

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