ACLU Urges Hawai'i to Act on Department of Justice Report on Youth Correctional Facility
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
HONOLULU — The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawai’i is urging state officials to act immediately on the Department of Justice’s report released today about its investigation into problematic conditions and practices at the Hawai’i Youth Correctional Facility, many of which were uncovered by an earlier ACLU inquiry.
“”Our primary concern has always been the well-being and safety of the youth who are in the facility,”” said Lois Perrin, Legal Director of the ACLU of Hawai’i. “”The Department of Justice report validates many of the disturbing conditions and practices uncovered earlier by the ACLU.””
The 30-page report by the Department of Justice details systemic problems found during an investigation that began in October 2004. The department found that “”certain deficiencies violate the constitutional and federal statutory rights of the youth confined at HYCF [the Hawai’i Youth Correctional Facility]. In particular, we find that youth confined at HYCF suffer harm or risk of harm from constitutional deficiencies in the facility’s confinement practices, suicide prevention procedures, and provisions of access to mental health and medical care services. We also find that the State fails to provide access to required education services pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.””
Other deficient areas identified were a failure to protect wards from staff abuse and exploitation, a failure to investigate abuse of youth, a defunct grievance process for youth, lack of training for staff, failure to provide access to educational services, and staff shortages resulting in a system dictated by poorly trained Youth Correctional Officers rather than professionally recognized correctional practices.
“”Our concern is about the lack of sufficient progress made by the state, not only since the ACLU’s 2003 report, but since the Department of Justice probe,”” said Perrin. “”In the meantime, youths’ lives continue to be at risk daily, to the distress of their families and others who are trying to help them.””
The ACLU will be analyzing the report over the next several weeks to decide on its next course of action. In the meantime, the ACLU urged the community to keep the pressure on the state to fulfill its responsibility to protect youth in its custody.
“”We need the community to continue putting pressure on the state if reform is to happen and if HYCF is to get the resources needs to do its job,”” said Vanessa Y. Chong, Executive Director of the ACLU of Hawai’i. “”Everyone has a stake in ensuring that these young people are eventually successfully reunited with their families and have a chance at productive lives.””
The ACLU’s report was released in August 2003; since then the organization has repeatedly pushed for reforms at the correctional facility.
The ACLU’s report on HYCF is available online at: http://www.acluHawaii.org/downloads/news/030826youthcorrection.pdf.
The Department of Justice findings are available online at: http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/split/documents/Hawaii_youth_findlet_8-4-05.pdf.
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