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,"
Perrin said she expects a final decision on the
case by the end of the year. (AP)