Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Second lawsuit filed this year on behalf of slain Hawaii prisoner in Mainland custody
“According to the complaint, CCA’s ‘pattern of greed-driven corner-cutting and short-staffing’ contributed to Clifford’s death, due to the company’s deliberate indifference and failure to protect Clifford from harm.”
by Larry Geller
I know, I know. I’m supposed to write a story based on the press conference held this morning by the ACLU and the Rosen Bien Galvan law firm. Well, I couldn’t be there because I had to co-host a meeting at the State Capitol.
So below is the press release. It’s actually the best account not only of the basis of this particular lawsuit, but of the background of problems that inmates have experienced in Correctional Corporation of America custody.
For activists (or anyone else who reads this and is concerned), you can join with groups working to bring Hawaii inmates home. Oh, and don’t forget, any penalties or settlements that result from these or other suits against the state are paid for with money taken from each of our wallets. Not to mention the moral implications of letting the state’s “deliberate indifference” continue. Will there be penalties for those responsible? No, of course not. Perhaps the best thing we can do as citizens is push our state government to bring everyone home without further delay.
So here is the press release.
Family of a Second Hawaii Prisoner Murdered in Mainland Prison Files Suit Against State of Hawaii and Corrections Corporation of America
Honolulu, HI - May 23, 2012 - For the second time in three months, the family of a Hawaii prisoner murdered at a private prison in Arizona filed a lawsuit against the State of Hawaii and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) (NYSE: CXW).
Clifford Medina, a 23-year-old citizen of Hawaii, was incarcerated at the CCA-operated Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy, Arizona as part of a controversial practice in which the Hawaii Department of Public Safety (DPS) sends state inmates to private, for-profit prisons on the mainland. Clifford was killed by another inmate on June 8, 2010.
The wrongful death suit was filed today in Circuit Court on behalf of Clifford's mother, sister and two of his aunts, both of whom also acted as Clifford's hanai mothers. According to the complaint, CCA's "pattern of greed-driven corner-cutting and short-staffing" contributed to Clifford's death, due to the company's deliberate indifference and failure to protect Clifford from harm. The complaint contends that CCA failed to control gang violence at Saguaro, failed to properly classify prisoners and failed to adequately staff the prison. Further, the State of Hawaii contributed to Clifford's death "by abdicating responsibility to inmates in its charge" by turning them over to CCA, and then failing to adequately monitor conditions at Saguaro. A copy of the complaint is available at www.rbg-law.com.
On February 15, 2012, the family of Bronson Nunuha, another Hawaii prisoner who was brutally murdered at the Saguaro facility four months before Clifford was killed, filed a lawsuit against the State of Hawaii, CCA and state and CCA officials, alleging similar deficiencies at the privately-run prison. Bronson's family is represented by the same legal team that filed today's complaint over Clifford's wrongful death. The State of Hawaii has asked the Court to transfer that case to Arizona.
"Another Hawaii family is suffering today because of the staffing deficiencies and indifference to the safety of prisoners demonstrated by Corrections Corporation of America and the State of Hawaii. We can expect that, to its shame, the State again will try to send this case to the mainland in order to help CCA limit its exposure," said attorney Sanford Jay Rosen of Rosen, Bien & Galvan, who along with the Human Rights Defense Center and the ACLU of Hawaii represents the Medina family.
"The murders of Clifford Medina and Bronson Nunuha underscore the need for Hawaii to end its practice of 'subcontracting' our prisoners' care to a for-profit company. CCA gets huge amounts of taxpayer money, which, instead of being used for safe keeping and rehabilitation, is banked to advance its profits. CCA puts profit ahead of people. The result: two murders and widespread
allegations of sexual and other violent assaults within their facilities," added Daniel Gluck, Senior Attorney with the ACLU of Hawaii.
Clifford, serving a 5-year sentence following a probation violation, had an extensive history of participation in special education programs designed to help him with his developmental disabilities. He had been diagnosed with moderate mental retardation during his childhood. Thus, he was particularly vulnerable to manipulation and violence by other inmates, and state officials had knowledge of his developmental disabilities and mental health condition.
Nevertheless, DPS transferred Clifford to CCA's Saguaro facility, far from his family, and CCA failed to take reasonable steps to address Clifford's vulnerability. Instead, CCA officials housed Clifford with violent inmates, including gang members, and did not take adequate precautions to ensure his safety.
Clifford was placed in a segregation cell with prisoner Mahinauli Silva, 22, who was serving up to 10 years for robbery, burglary and theft. Silva was reportedly a member of the dominant prison gang at Saguaro and was known to have anger control problems. Shortly before the murder, Silva told CCA officials to move Clifford to another cell or he would attack Clifford. According to a witness, a CCA employee replied, "As long as you two don't kill each other, I don't care."
On June 8, 2010, Silva murdered Clifford by strangling him to death in their shared cell. Although CCA staff conducted rounds in the housing unit, periodically looked in the cell and even spoke with Silva while Clifford lay dead or dying, they did not become aware that Clifford was dead until Silva later notified them.
Notably, while Hawaii prisoners Clifford and Bronson were killed at the CCA-run Saguaro prison in Arizona in 2010, no state prisoners were murdered in DPS-operated facilities in Hawaii during that same year.
"While CCA has received millions of dollars from the State of Hawaii for housing inmates in the company's for-profit prisons, Hawaii prisoners - including Clifford Medina - have needlessly died as a result of CCA's failure to protect them," said Alex Friedmann with the Human Rights Defense Center.
CCA prisons that house Hawaii prisoners have experienced numerous problems. In addition to the murders of Clifford and Bronson, over a dozen Hawaii prisoners have filed lawsuits against CCA claiming that the company has tolerated beatings and sexual assaults in its mainland facilities, and has refused to let them participate in native Hawaiian religious practices. Additionally, in 2009, Hawaii removed all of its female inmates from CCA's Otter Creek Correctional Center in Kentucky following a scandal that resulted in at least six CCA employees being charged with rape or sexual misconduct.
The attorneys representing Clifford's family ask anyone with information about his death - or information about Bronson Nunuha's murder or violations of safety or security policies at CCA's Saguaro Correctional Center - to contact them. All inquiries are confidential.
This is so wrong and painful. These privatized prisons need to be shut down.
NO Hawaii prisoner should be anywhere but Hawaii.
Lingle had a big hand in this scam.
Imagine this: she said she could not find 6 beds to accommodate 6 female prisoners in Hawaii. So all females were shipped out.
Lingle needs to be occupying a prison bed...anywhere is ok with me. But which one? Mens or womens?