Citing Shocking Incidents of Harassment of Gay Youth, ACLU Files Federal Civil Lawsuit against Hawaii Juvenile Detention Facility
September 02, 2005
Honolulu - The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of three young people who say they have been abused and harassed because of their sexual orientation and gender identity while at the state’s juvenile detention facility.
The Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility (HYCF) is one of two facilities in the state where juveniles are sent by the courts primarily for rehabilitation. However, ACLU papers filed yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii paint a picture of a punitive and terrifying atmosphere for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth at the facility.
“HYCF is supposed to treat all young people who’ve had trouble with the law equally and help them make positive changes in their lives, but for LGBT youth being sent there is a brutal and degrading experience,” said Lois Perrin, Legal Director at the ACLU of Hawaii. “The government should take care of our state’s most troubled youth and teach them how to be productive citizens, not brutalize and abuse them.”
Citing a laundry list of shocking incidents, the ACLU alleges that officials at the Hawaii Office of Youth Services (OYS) and HYCF ignored and sometimes even participated in an atmosphere of harassment, humiliation and fear for lesbians, gay , bisexual and transgender youth in the facility, despite repeated please by doctors and psychologists who were concerned about the wards’ safety and well-being.
Among the many incidents detailed in the ACLU brief:
“HYCF has an obligation to ensure the safety of all young people in its care, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. This facility has not only failed at that, but has created an environment that is downright dangerous,” said Tamara Lange, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s national Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. “This kind of environment is only going to make rehabilitation more difficult for these young people.”
Representing a 17 year-old male-to-female transgender girl, a 19 year-old who refers to herself as a “gay female”, and an 18 year-old boy perceived to be gay, the ACLU claims that the incidents at HYCF violate a host of the wards’ constitutional rights, including equal protection and due process. The ACLU is asking the court to force HYCF to establish polices, procedures, and training to prevent further violating LGBT wards’ civil rights.
The ACLU encourages any LGBT individual who has suffered similar experiences at HYCF and wants to tell his or her story to contact ACLU of Hawaii legal director Lois Perrin at firstname.lastname@example.org or (808) 522-5900.
The ACLU of Hawaii is working with the national ACLU Lesbian and Gay Rights Project in handling the case. The law firms of Alston Hunt Floyd and Ing and the mainland firm of Morrison and Foerster LLP are providing cooperating attorney support.
Today’s lawsuit follows a series of negative spotlights on the conditions and practices at HYCF. The U.S. Department of Justice last month issued a scathing report following its investigation last fall. The Justice department verified many of the systemic problems uncovered and publicized earlier by the ACLU of Hawaii’s own investigation in 2003. Legal documents and additional information on the case, R.G., et al v. Koller et al, can be viewed online at http://www.aclu.org/caseprofiles.
Lawsuit alleges abuse at youth correctional facility (Honolulu Advertiser)
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