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The Honolulu Advertiser
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Posted on: Monday, October 3, 2005

A history of trouble at Mainland prisons holding Hawai'i inmates

 •  Years of problems yield few answers

Advertiser Staff

Hawai'i women were removed from Brush Correctional Facility, where there have been allegations of sexual misconduct by staff.

STEVE DYKES | Special to The Advertiser

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December 1995 — Citing cost savings, Hawai'i sends 300 prisoners to the Dickens and Newton county correctional centers in Texas, both operated by the Bobby Ross Group.

Feb. 14, 1996 — Hawai'i inmate Larry Pagan escapes from Newton, kidnaps and sexually assaults a woman two miles from jail, forcing her to drive him to Mexico. Pagan is recaptured and sentenced to life without parole.

Aug. 26, 1996 — Hawai'i and Montana inmates protest food portions, low wages and other issues at Dickens; guards fire weapons, injuring a Montana inmate. The warden is dismissed and a U.S. Department of Justice investigation finds guards were poorly trained.

May 9, 1997 — A Montana inmate is killed and others injured when 100 prisoners from Montana and Hawai'i brawl at Newton County prison. Nightly pro-tests, fires and property damage follow, with a U.S. Department of Justice report later blaming guards for inadequate response.

May 27, 1997 — Hawai'i sends another 300 prisoners to Texas, including the first 64 women inmates to Crystal City Correctional Center.

Aug. 30, 1997 — Hawai'i inmate Matthew Treu escapes from Newton, but is quickly recaptured.

Dec. 7, 1997 — Hawai'i inmates take control of a portion of Newton prison and release 300 prisoners, resulting in a riot that causes $300,000 in fire damage.

Feb. 23, 1998 — Newton's warden is fired after a disturbance in which Hawai'i inmates set fire to the prison commissary after being tear-gassed.

Feb. 26, 1998 — Three Hawai'i inmates at Newton kidnap and assault a corrections officer during an escape attempt.

March 1998 — The Newton facility is cited by the Texas Jail Standards Commission for violating minimum prison standards due to overcrowding.

Aug. 18, 1998 — Hawai'i transfers female inmates to Central Oklahoma Correctional Facility because of sanitation problems and lack of programs at Crystal City.

July 20, 1998 — A U.S. Department of Justice investigation finds conditions at the Dickens facility amount to "cruel and unusual punishment."

July/October 1998 — Hawai'i sends two groups of 300 inmates each to private prisons in Oklahoma, Tennessee and Minnesota run by Corrections Corp. of America (CCA). Hawai'i now has 1,200 inmates on the Mainland at a cost of $20 million per year.

June 1999 — Two dozen Hawai'i and Indiana inmates fight at Diamondback Correctional Facility in Watonga, Okla.

Aug. 16, 1999 — Fires set during a two-hour melee between Diamondback guards and 25 Hawai'i inmates cause $200,000 in damage. Five guards and four inmates are hurt.

Feb. 17, 2000 — West Tennessee Detention Facility staff use tear gas to quell a two-hour disturbance started when 11 Hawai'i inmates refuse to move to another cellblock.

Sept. 12, 2000 — Three guards are injured when 20 Hawai'i inmates at CCA's Florence (Ariz.) Correctional Center smash windows, computers, TVs and food carts in the so-called Rice Riot to protest the way rice is cooked.

November 2000 — Three women inmates file lawsuits alleging sexual assaults by Oklahoma prison staff; the complaints are later settled for an undisclosed sum.

April 11, 2001 — A riot in the recreational yard by 23 Hawai'i inmates leaves two Florence guards and an inmate injured.

April 16, 2001 — Florence inmate Iulani Amani, 23, dies after packets of crystal methamphetamine burst in his stomach, prompting a management review of prison.

April 30, 2001 — Hawai'i prison monitors report lax security, widespread drug use, gang activity, and failure to provide required educational and rehabilitation programs at Florence. The warden is replaced and suspected gang members are sent to other prisons.

June 2003 — Diamondback officials suspect smuggling of crystal methamphetamine by female guards "in love" with Hawai'i inmates. Six are fired for "inappropriate relationships."

June 2003 — Monitors urge removal of women inmates from the Oklahoma prison because required programs aren't being provided.

July 20, 2003 — A riot by Hawai'i inmates at Diamondback prompts an investigation and results in a three-week lockdown of 119 inmates.

Oct. 17, 2003 — Monitors warn that conditions at Diamondback are "deteriorating" and urge Hawai'i officials to freeze the number of inmates there.

May 14, 2004 — About 500 Arizona inmates riot for several hours at Diamondback; Hawai'i inmates are not involved. An investigation by Arizona officials finds inadequate staffing.

August 2004 — More than a year after monitors urged transfer, women inmates in Oklahoma are moved to GRW Corp.'s Brush Correctional Facility in Colorado.

October 2004 — Monitors urge removal of 775 Diamondback inmates if conditions don't improve; the deputy warden is removed and improvements noted.

February 2005 — The Brush warden resigns in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations involving guards and eight inmates, including two Hawai'i women.

March 2005 — Colorado investigators discover seven Brush employees had arrest records or felony convictions; GRW admits background checks were not done.

July 17, 2005 — A sergeant at the Tallahatchie County (Miss.) Correctional Facility pushes the wrong button, opening 20 cell doors and triggering attacks in the unit housing Hawai'i gang members; two inmates are seriously injured. Guards use tear gas to regain control.

September 2005 — Hawai'i moves 80 women inmates from Brush to CCA's Otter Creek Correctional Center in Wheelwright, Ky.