Tag Archives: prisoner rights

Hawaii Prisons

My American Studies class at Honolulu Community College recently watched 13th (the documentary) and then were tasked with writing a question to be tweeted to the ACLU in regards to imprisonment in Hawaii. Here are the questions they asked as well as the answers we received! Thank you ACLU Hawaii and Civil Beat for your work on this issue. The images have been taken from CJR_Mass_incarceration2 provided by the ACLU.

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In regards to sexual assault cases @ Kailua women’s prison, why not enhance security? http://bigstory.ap.org/article/20a443611e0347b6b13839e0d76f8fd8/10-women-file-suit-claiming-abuse-hawaii-womens-prison

This is a very good question, and one best put to the Department of Public Safety. The government is required to comply with the U.S. and Hawai‘i State Constitutions in incarcerating people – this includes the 8th Amendment which protects against “cruel and unusual punishment.” Simply put, the loss of liberty is the punishment, the conditions of incarceration (including violence and lax security) should not be the punishment. The ACLU has been trying to improve the conditions in Hawaii’s prison and jails for decades. In fact, we recently filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice over the toxic overcrowding of our jails and prisons. I have attached it here: DOJ_Complaint_as_published. I have also attached a powerpoint presentation on mass incarceration that we recently created: CJR_Mass_incarceration2.

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Is there a diff punishment 4 nonviolent & drug crimes in #Hawaii?

Right now, Hawaii’s jails and prison have three serious issues. First, it is far too easy to be a felon (5 year sentence) in Hawaiʻi. Class C felonies include many non-violent crimes like possession of any drug paraphernalia, theft over $750, possession of any amount of a Schedule I drug, including Marijuana, etc. Class C felons and misdemeanants represent 74 percent of the people in prison. Additionally, Hawaii has a long history of criminalizing poverty, using our facilities as debtor’s prisons. Around 20 percent of the incarcerated population is there, because they cannot pay bail.  Finally, our prisons and jails have become de-facto mental wards and drug treatment facilities, with zero to minimal treatment options. It’s estimated that 80% of our incarcerated person suffer from addiction. This results in a revolving door of incarceration, no rehabilitation, and lifelong consequences in housing, education and employment.

There is a movement across the nation (of which the ACLU is part) called LEAD – Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion – which changes the role of police in the community from “arrest and book” to “assess and divert.” For example, take a mentally ill homeless person disturbing the peace. She usually has it together, but ran out of money for the drugs that help her function. Normally, the police would arrest her, take her to jail, book her and she would be offered bail, which she cannot pay, so they keep her in jail. No (or few) medications or medical treatment are offered. She will likely never see a doctor. On release, she goes right back to disturbing the peace, more ill and confused and angry than before. Under LEAD, the police approach her, assess her needs (shelter, help with her medications, medical attention), and instead of arresting her, offer her the option to see a social worker. They collect her name and information, and she will need to have a meeting with the social worker at a later time – but that is it. No jail, no criminal record. Treatment and help, not arrest. LEAD is very successful at reducing rescidivism. LEAD participants in Seattle were 58% less likely to be arrested. Find out more: https://www.leadbureau.org/

[Plus side note from the blogger that there’s a new bill going through the state legislature as of April 1, 2016 attempting to make drug paraphernalia no longer a Class C Felony but only a $100 fine. http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/session2017/bills/HB1501_HD1_.pdf]

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Why can’t #Hawaii make $ off prison so less inmates are sent to mainland?

They do. See http://www.staradvertiser.com/2011/02/14/hawaii-news/isle-prisons-become-key-source-of-labor/ [<< This article is incredible! Prisoners on work duty are even tasked with cleaning out homeless encampments, among a waiting list of other tasks.]


What about other religions in #Hawaii? http://www.civilbeat.org/2017/02/settlement-protects-religious-rights-for-hawaiian-prisoners/ …

A prisoner’s right to exercise his or her religion is balanced against the government’s interests. The general balancing test is that the government may not impose a substantial burden on the religious exercise of prisoners unless that burden (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that interest. You can read more here: https://www.aclu.org/files/images/asset_upload_file78_25744.pdf

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Is #Hawaii liable for safety of its prisoners on mainland?

Yes. Even when help in private, for-profit prisons like the Saguaro Correctional Center in Arizona housing upwards of 2000 Hawaii inmates, they are held under the authority of the State of Hawaii. The for-profit prison has a contract with the state, and is therefore treated as an agent of the state. That’s why when the ACLU took on two wrongful death cases after two Hawaii inmates were murdered in a CCA facility in Saguaro AZ, both the State and CCA were named as plaintiffs.  https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/in-the-news/2012/hrdc-aclu-of-hawaii-file-suit-on-behalf-of-family-of-hawaii-prisoner-slain-at-cca-prison/


What are problems w/ sending #Hawaii prisoners to mainland?

Any time there is profit motive for incarceration, there is a vested interest in keeping more people in jail longer, at lowest cost to the company to maximize shareholder profits.  This is antithetical to justice. See https://www.aclu.org/banking-bondage-private-prisons-and-mass-incarceration. Also, separating inmates from their loved ones is cruel and makes rehabilitation less likely.

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What are the 2016 demographics of #Hawaii prisons by crime?

Crime reports can be found here:  http://ag.hawaii.gov/cpja/rs/cih/ and https://ag.hawaii.gov/cpja/files/2016/12/Crime-in-Hawaii-2015.pdf

Reasons for incarceration can be found here: https://www.prisonpolicy.org/profiles/HI.html [This has some excellent slides on racial and ethnic data in Hawaii’s prisons and Hawaiian prisoners on the mainland, that argue that these graphs don’t even account for some nuances in the actual reality of Native Hawaiians experiences in the prison system. For example:

In 2010, Office Of Hawaiian Affairs released a report The Disparate Treatment of Native Hawaiians in the Criminal Justice System finding that Native Hawaiians were disproportionately sent to out-of-state prisons. The report said that in 2005, “of the people in out-of-state facilities, 41 percent are Native Hawaiians”. The numbers may have gotten worse, as our our analysis of the Census Bureau data for Arizona’s Saguaro Correctional Facility says that that facility is 48% Native Hawaiian alone, and 49% Native Hawaiian alone or in combination with other racial groups.

I’ve included some slides from PrisonPolicy.org here, but you should definitely check it out for yourself.]

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What types of prison labor are instituted in #Hawaii prisons?

This is a great question, probably best answered by the Department of Public Safety. There is a website for the Correctional Industries: http://hawaiici.org/ [This site is really fascinating because it’s from the prison industry’s perspective. The site shows pictures of prisoners doing labor – everything from light construction crews to screenprinting shirts and woodwork. Additionally you’ll find the recent 2016 bill that spells out how prison labor in Hawaii must market itself: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/session2016/bills/GM1329_.pdf.

You could also contact the Community Alliance on Prisons for a view from outside the system https://caphawaii.wordpress.com/.


How are prisons designed in #Hawaii – differences for men, women,  + kids?

We have jails: pretrail detainees, prisons: sentenced and convicted, and youth correctional facilities: for offenders under the age of 18. Wards at youth correctional facilities attend school, they are supposed to have a more rehabilitative focus.

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How many youths are in #prison in #Hawaii?

For someone under 18 to go to prison, they must be charged as an adult, and pose a sufficient danger that they cannot be safely held at a juvenile facility. Then, if held in an adult prison, must be kept separate from the general population. We are not aware of any such situated youths in Hawaii at this time, but the Department of Public Safety could tell you more. Most of the time, youths do NOT go to jail or to prison, nor are they “convicted of crimes” or “inmates.” Youths are held at a Youth Correctional Facility, after being adjuticated (usually in Family Court) of an offense. Then they become wards. Youth correction in Hawaii has been controversial, the ACLU of Hawaii brought a landmark case about brutal treatment of wards who were (or were perceived to be) LGBT by the guards and administration. https://www.aclu.org/news/hawaii-youth-correctional-facility-pay-over-half-million-dollars-relentless-campaign-harassment


On average, how long do #Hawaii inmates wait until trial?

Under the Hawaii Rules of Penal Procedure, trials must generally commence within 6 months of arrest. This period can be extended for certain types of delays. A 2004 study found that people charged with felonies in Hawaiʻi spent 216 days in jail awaiting trial. See https://csgjusticecenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/JR_HI_Policy_Rollout_Handout.pdf

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How much is the average bail bond in #Hawaii? @acluhawaii

This is a great question, and the answer is, we are not entirely sure. There are currently no ready-made government reports on the subject. It is an area of interest to the ACLcaU, since we’d like to see no-cash bail for many offenses, instead of the large percentage of low level, non-violent offenders sitting in jail because they cannot pay. In fact, we plan to conduct a local study on this in the coming year or so. If you were to ask a government agency, it would be the court system.


Did US govt make $ off Japanese American #internment in WW2? [Learn more about internment in Hawaii during WW2 here: http://hawaiiinternment.org/]

There is a lot of documentation that yes, the United States did rampantly seize and sell the property of Japanese-American citizens as part of Internment. Many resources online about this, including this Economist article: http://www.economist.com/node/788126. To learn even more, including information about the newly established National Monument at Honouliuli, contact our local Japanese Cultural Center. The ACLU was instrumental in bringing to a close this shameful chapter in American history: https://www.aclu.org/other/aclu-history-dark-moment-history-japanese-internment-camps


An image of Honouliuli Internment Camp in Honolulu – one of many internment camps spread across the islands that housed Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans among other ethnic groups. Read more by clicking on this photo.

Are #Hawaii prisons affiliated with CC or @CorrectionsCorp?

The State of Hawaii pays CCA about $45 million per year to currently house about 1926 Hawai‘i prisoners at their private, for-profit prisons in Arizona.  The ACLU would like to see the State of Hawaiʻi stop using for-profit prisons entirely.


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This American Life: Prison Rights

I was driving to IHOP this weekend when I heard this and was completely appalled.  I’m TAing for a constitutional law course, and have no idea how any of this could be legal.

Listen here.

NPR‘s This American Life: Very Tough Love

Part One.

Ira reports from Glynn County Georgia on Superior Court Judge Amanda Williams and how she runs the drug courts in Glynn, Camden and Wayne counties. We hear the story of Lindsey Dills, who forges two checks on her parents’ checking account when she’s 17, one for $40 and one for $60, and ends up in drug court for five and a half years, including 14 months behind bars, and then she serves another five years after that—six months of it in Arrendale State Prison, the other four and a half on probation. The average drug court program in the U.S. lasts 15 months. But one main way that Judge Williams’ drug court is different from most is how punitive it is. Such long jail sentences are contrary to the philosophy of drug court, as well as the guidelines of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals. For violating drug court rules, Lindsey not only does jail terms of 51 days, 90 days and 104 days, Judge Williams sends her on what she calls an “indefinite sentence,” where she did not specify when Lindsey would get out. (30 minutes)

Part Two.

We hear about how Brandi Byrd and many other offenders end up in Judge Williams’ drug court. One reason drug courts were created was to save money by incarcerating fewer people. But in Judge Williams’ program, people like Brandi end up in drug court—at a cost of $350 per month—who would’ve simply gotten probation in most other Georgia counties. When offenders like Brandi are kicked out of the program—and half of participants in Judge Williams’ drug court program don’t successfully complete it—they go into detention, at a cost of $17,000 per year. Brandi did two years.

We also hear how one model drug court participant, Charlie McCullough, was treated by Judge Williams. (25 minutes)

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Prisoners on Nonviolent Strike in Georgia

Text from NY Times article “Prisoners Strike in Georgia” by Sarah Wheaton, December 12, 2010.


In a protest apparently assembled largely through a network of banned cellphones, inmates across at least six prisons in Georgia have been on strike since Thursday, calling for better conditions and compensation, several inmates and an outside advocate said.

Inmates have refused to leave their cells or perform their jobs, in a demonstration that seems to transcend racial and gang factions that do not often cooperate.

Here is the original press release describing the goals of the nonviolent prison strike found at Black Agenda Alert.

Chief among the prisoners’ demands is that they be compensated for jailhouse labor. They are also demanding better educational opportunities, nutrition, and access to their families.

“We committed the crime, we’re here for a reason,” said the Hays inmate. “But at the same time we’re men. We can’t be treated like animals.”

Press Release


Thousands of Georgia Prisoners to Stage Peaceful Protest

December 8, 2010?Atlanta, Georgia

Contacts: Elaine Brown, 404-542-1211, sistaelaine@gmail.com;Valerie Porter, 229-931-5348, lashan123@att.net; Faye Sanders, 478-550-7046

Tomorrow morning, December 9, 2010, thousands of Georgia prisoners will refuse to work, stop all other activities and remain in their cells in a peaceful, one-day protest for their human rights.  The December 9 Strike is projected to be the biggest prisoner protest in the history of the United States.

These thousands of men, from Baldwin, Hancock, Hays, Macon, Smith and Telfair State Prisons, among others, state they are striking to press the Georgia Department of Corrections (?DOC?) to stop treating them like animals and slaves and institute programs that address their basic human rights.  They have set forth the following demands:

  • A LIVING WAGE FOR WORK:  In violation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution prohibiting slavery and involuntary servitude, the DOC demands prisoners work for free.
  • EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES:  For the great majority of prisoners, the DOC denies all opportunities for education beyond the GED, despite the benefit to both prisoners and society.
  • DECENT HEALTH CARE:  In violation of the 8th Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments, the DOC denies adequate medical care to prisoners, charges excessive fees for the most minimal care and is responsible for extraordinary pain and suffering.
  • AN END TO CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENTS:  In further violation of the 8th Amendment, the DOC is responsible for cruel prisoner punishments for minor infractions of rules.
  • DECENT LIVING CONDITIONS:  Georgia prisoners are confined in over-crowded, substandard conditions, with little heat in winter and oppressive heat in summer.
  • NUTRITIONAL MEALS:  Vegetables and fruit are in short supply in DOC facilities while starches and fatty foods are plentiful.
  • VOCATIONAL AND SELF-IMPROVEMENT OPPORTUNITIES:  The DOC has stripped its facilities of all opportunities for skills training, self-improvement and proper exercise.
  • ACCESS TO FAMILIES:  The DOC has disconnected thousands of prisoners from their families by imposing excessive telephone charges and innumerable barriers to visitation.
  • JUST PAROLE DECISIONS:  The Parole Board capriciously and regularly denies parole to the majority of prisoners despite evidence of eligibility.

Prisoner leaders issued the following call: No more slavery.  Injustice in one place is injustice to all.  Inform your family to support our cause.  Lock down for liberty!

“Their general rage found a home among them — common ground — and they set aside their differences to make an incredible statement,” said Elaine Brown, a former Black Panther leader who has taken up the inmates’ cause. She said that different factions’ leaders recruited members to participate, but the movement lacks a definitive torchbearer.

Ms. Brown said thousands of inmates were participating in the strike.

The Georgia Department of Corrections could not be reached for comment Saturday night.

“We’re not coming out until something is done. We’re not going to work until something is done,” said one inmate at Rogers State Prison in Reidsville. He refused to give his name because he was speaking on a banned cellphone.

Several inmates, who used cellphones to call The Times from their cells, said they found out about the protest from text messages and did not know whether specific individuals were behind it.

“This is a pretty much organic effort on their part,” said Ms. Brown, a longtime prisoner advocate, who distilled the inmates’ complaints into a list of demands. “They did it, and then they reached out to me.” Ms. Brown, the founder of the National Alliance for Radical Prison Reform in Locust Grove, Ga., said she has spoken to more than 200 prisoners over the past two days.

The Corrections Department placed several of the facilities where inmates planned to strike under indefinite lockdown on Thursday, according to local reports.

“We’re hearing in the news they’re putting it down as we’re starting a riot, so they locked all the prison down,” said a 20-year-old inmate at Hays State Prison in Trion, who also refused to give his name. But, he said, “We locked ourselves down.”


Interesting the NY Times article ends with a quote from the Hays inmate: “We committed the crime, we’re here for a reason.  But at the same time we’re men. We can’t be treated like animals.”

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