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Hawaii Agrees To Improve Jail Conditions For Gay Teens


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Hawaii Agrees To Improve Jail Conditions For Gay Teens

by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

February 8, 2006 - 5:00 pm ET

(Honolulu, Hawaii) The state of Hawaii has agreed to make "sweeping and comprehensive changes'' at its only youth prison.

The agreement with the federal justice department comes just one day after a judge granted a preliminary injunction against the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility.

U-S District Judge Michael Seabright said the case was "replete with documents and testimonial evidence demonstrating verbal harassment and abuse'' of inmates by prison officials.

Three LGBT teens, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, filed against Facility.

The suit said that the teens had been abused and harassed because of their sexual orientation and gender identity while at the detention facility.

The suit says that youth correctional officers routinely told a lesbian ward and her girlfriend that their relationship was "bad" and that they were going to hell and referred to the couple's relationship as "this butchie S**t." Other guards routinely made lewd and humiliating remarks to the couple, including, "You two eating fish earlier? At least you're not finger-banging yourselves in the TV room."

Male wards in the facility allegedly surrounded a teen who was perceived to be gay in the shower, threatening him with rape, and once rubbed semen into his face in the bathroom. When the young man reported the incidents, HYCF did nothing the suit claims.

In April, according to the lawsuit, the head administrator at HYCF called a special meeting of all the girls and staff at one of the units in the facility for the specific purpose of singling out a lesbian couple to belittle them about their relationship. The administrator told the couple that their relationship was "disgusting," then required the other wards to create a list of rules for the couple; the wards decided that the girls shouldn't be allowed to even speak to each other under threat of disciplinary measures, including lockdown.

In another instance cited in the suit, a male-to-female transgender student was repeatedly verbally abused and preached to by guards who called her "wrong" and "unnatural" and threatened to cut off her hair. After she was transferred to the boys' unit, she was physically assaulted and groped, often in front of guards who did nothing. Rather than attempting to ensure her safety, HYCF segregated her for almost two months, and did not allow her to interact at all with other wards.

A doctor at the facility testified that after LGBT inmates brought their concerns to him he wrote letters to administrators about the incidents, but never receive replies.

In announcing the settlement Attorney General Mark Bennett said the state was "disappointed'' that the court found conditions so severe.

"While the conditions at HYCF are particularly bad, this should serve as a wake-up call to the juvenile justice system throughout the U.S.," said Tamara Lange, a staff attorney with the ACLU's national Lesbian and Gay Rights Project.

"Citizens entrust the government to protect our most troubled youth and teach them how to be productive citizens, and this facility has failed miserably at providing even the most basic guarantee of safety for these vulnerable young people."

©365Gay.com 2006


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