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Hearing set to
examine mistreatment of gays in Hawaii youth prison

Hearing set to
examine mistreatment of gays in Hawaii youth prison

A U.S district court judge said Monday that he wants more evidence of mistreatment at Hawaii's youth prison before determining whether to order immediate changes at the facility. Judge Michael Seabright scheduled an evidentiary hearing for December 20 after being urged by the American Civil Liberties Union to grant an injunction ordering new policies be established at the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility. The ACLU argues that immediate action is needed at the prison to stop harassment and abuse of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender wards. The organization is suing the juvenile prison on behalf of three 18-year-old wards. The state's troubled youth prison in Kailua is the target of several civil rights lawsuits and has come under criticism from the federal government. Last summer the U.S. Justice Department released a highly critical report that said the young inmates' constitutional and federal statutory rights were being violated at the prison. The Justice Department described the facility as "existing in a state of chaos." Lois Perrin, legal director for the ACLU's Hawaii chapter, said the group was "delighted" with the ruling. "This is a very important step, and it vindicates these children's' rights," Perrin said. Hawaii deputy attorney general John Molay said he was "disappointed" with Seabright's decision. He said new evidence, including interviews with prison officers who have denied the allegations, will prove that improvements have already been made at the prison. "We believe once all that comes out in court, we will prevail," Molay said, adding that a new policy now specifically prohibits discrimination by staff. He also said the injunction sought by the ACLU has no legal standing because the plaintiffs were not incarcerated when it was filed. Two of the three youths are no longer at the prison, and the third is missing, Molay said. "Therefore any order that the judge were to pass out would not affect these plaintiffs," he said. Perrin said she expects a final decision on the case by the end of the year. (AP)

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