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ACLU Sues Hawaii Over Youth Prison

October 25, 2005

HONOLULU (AP) _ A civil liberties group sued the state of Hawaii on Monday, saying it failed to protect inmates at a youth prison where teens were abused and kept in overcrowded, unsanitary conditions.

The lawsuit, which seeks class-action status, asks for a federal court-ordered expert to ``design, implement and oversee policies and procedures″ at the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility, said Lois Perrin, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii.

``The state has been aware for over two years of a multitude of problems,″ she said. ``The state should be embarrassed that this lawsuit is necessary.″

After an ACLU report in 2003 said young inmates were abused and harassed, the prison’s two top administrators were removed and the attorney general’s office launched an investigation.

In August, the U.S. Justice Department released its own critical report, saying the young inmates’ constitutional and federal statutory rights were being violated and describing the Kailua facility as ``existing in a state of chaos.″

Attorney General Mark Bennett’s office said the lawsuit ``essentially restates issues″ raised by the Department of Justice, and the state has worked to address the problems.

Since the federal investigation, the state instituted a new detailed incident-reporting system, created a new housing unit and hired consultants and additional guards, officials said.

An ACLU lawsuit last month accused guards at the youth prison of harassing and discriminating against inmates because of their sexual orientation.

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