ACLU Wants Reform of Youth Correctional Facility
Calls Governor's New Appointment "Good First Step"
August 26, 2003
Honolulu - The ACLU of Hawai'i today called Governor Lingle's
appointment of a new director of the Hawai'i Youth Correctional
Facility (HYCF) a good first step but wants the state to do much more.
The appointment was a direct result of a scathing report released to
the Governor by the local ACLU.
The 34-page report details systemic problems with the HYCF ranging from
overcrowding and lack of adequate medical and mental health care to the
policies of discipline and isolation and guard brutality and rape of
wards. The ACLU recommended forty-seven (47) steps to take in order to
bring the facility into compliance with generally accepted practices in
other youth correctional facilities nationwide.
ACLU issued a redacted version of its report deleting only personally
identifying information regarding wards and guards in order to protect
the identity of wards and maintain the integrity of the investigation
promised by the attorney general's office.
"The appointment is a
promising first step. However, there are very serious problems at the
facility which must be addressed immediately. The sheer breadth of
dysfunction in the facility and the threats faced by wards is alarming.
Each day that goes by puts all of the wards' safety and well-being at
further risk. We look forward to having the state investigate our
claims and to move as quickly as possible to make the needed
corrections," said legal director Brent White.
Some of the report's findings and ACLU recommendations:
Finally, the ACLU urges the
hiring of an outside expert to implement adequate quality measures
recommended and to perform regular reviews to ensure the quality of
The facility is designed for 30 but were holding 70 boys. As a result,
male wards are housed two or three to each one-person cell and are
forced to sleep on a mattress on the floor next to the toilet. When
overcrowding is particularly bad, up to six (6) wards at a time sleep
in the "TV room" which lacks running water or a toilet. Wards are
forced to use a bucket as a toilet. The level of overcrowding impacts
numerous other living conditions. ACLU recommendation: The facility
needs to adopt a population cap. Legislation needs to be introduced to
prohibit the incarceration of juveniles charged with non-violent
offenses. A substantial number are being incarcerated because of status
offenses (truants, runaways).
- Unduly punitive
living conditions. Male wards are routinely locked down in bare cells
for up to 18 hours per day. Wards have not been allowed to have
anything in their cells other than the clothes on their backs, bedding
and a Bible. They are not allowed personal hygiene products such as
toothpaste and soap nor pictures and letters from family and friends.
ACLU recommendation: Eliminate punitive conditions and cease
immediately the current practice. At a minimum, wards must be allowed
basic toiletries and access to other reading material and pictures from
- Abusive discipline without due process. The
facility does not seem to have any functioning system of positive
incentives to manage youth behavior and instead relies almost solely on
discipline such as room confinement and physical force. This had led to
unconstitutionally abusive disciplinary practices. Guards routinely
exercise inappropriate punishment ranging from verbal threats to
physical force. There is a lack of adequate staff training, oversight
and discipline. The facility lacks any kind of due process
protections for wards as required by law. ACLU recommendation: Put
positive incentive programs into place. Cease immediately reliance on
room confinement and physical force as the primary means of control.
Cease lockdowns for periods of longer than 24 hours. Give wards
adequate due process before instituting disciplinary confinement. Cease
other humiliating forms of discipline such as leaving wards naked in
the holding cell, denying food, and physical violence.
harassment and assault. There is a woeful lack of female guards for
girl wards. This situation has resulted in several sexual assaults
against girls by male staff over the past few years and at least one
recent rape. ACLU recommendation: Immediately place the guards
mentioned on administrative leave and begin proceedings to terminate
and/or criminally prosecute them.
- Lack of privacy in
girls facility. In addition to sexual harassment and sexual assault,
girls suffer from lack of privacy when getting dressed, sleeping and
using the bathroom. ACLU recommendation: At least one female guard on
duty at all times.
- Lack of exercise and recreation.
Wards receive recreation sporadically and, oftentimes, not for weeks
due to inadequate staffing. When recreation is provided, it usually
lasts only 45 minutes. ACLU recommendation: Adopt policies to ensure
sufficient staffing to prevent cancellation of recreation time.
schooling and lack of access to education. The facility blatantly
violates state and federal laws requiring that they provide adequate
schooling to every ward. Guards deny wards schooling to punish them for
misbehavior. ACLU recommendation: Comply with special education
requirements. Stop the practice of using denial of school as
punishment. Provide adequate vocational opportunities and inform wards
of these programs.
- Unreasonable limitations on
outside contact including visits, phone calls and access to legal
counsel. The restrictive visitation policies fall far short of
professional and legal standards. Since many wards are estranged from
their families, this often means that they are completely cut off from
the community and have no outside contact at all. ACLU recommendation:
Allow visitation several hours of the day, several days of the week and
allow visits by adult relatives, family friends and siblings. Provide
reasonable access to phone calls, immediately cease mail restrictions
on how many letters wards may write and to whom and cease the practice
of reading outgoing ward mail and making wards "re-write" letters not
acceptable to staff.
- Inadequate medical and mental
health care. One full-time nurse is inadequate and, as a result, many
wards must wait long periods of time to get assistance which can be
life-threatening for those with chronic health and/or psychiatric
problems. ACLU recommendation: Hire additional medical staff to ensure
access to care.
- Inadequate grievance
procedures. The grievance process is completely defunct. There is
unanimous consensus among wards that the grievance process is futile
and that grievances are thrown away or ignored. ACLU recommendation:
Establish functioning system where there is notice to wards and easy
and confidential access.
The report is a result of ACLU interviews with
wards and staff on June 3 and July 23, 2003 visits to the facility. The
ACLU inspected physical conditions, interviewed the director, and met
individually with approximately 70 wards.
Report of Findings and Recommendations on the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility
ACLU Rejects Union Demand for Release of Juvenile Facility Information
ACLU Calls Union Lawsuit to Stop HYCF Investigation of Guards Harassment
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