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Hawaii ACLU Sues to Get Records in Prisoner Deaths

The Hawaii ACLU alleges that the Hawaii Department of Public Safety is stonewalling on releasing records relevant to the deaths of two prisoners who were incarcerated at Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) penitentiaries. The CCA is a private prison company that had contracted with the state. The ACLU, which is pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit against the prison company, says it has requested and paid $5,300 for the records in question and that it is long past the legally mandated due date for the records to have been produced. It says that so far not a single document has been received.

Honolulu, HI – April 11, 2013 – The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii Foundation (“ACLU”) filed a lawsuit in First Circuit Court today on behalf of the law firm Rosen, Bien, Galvan & Grunfeld, LLLP (“RBGG”). The suit, against the Hawaii Department of Public Safety (“PSD”), seeks immediate access to public records in compliance with Hawaii’s Uniform Information Practices Act (“UIPA,” otherwise known as Hawaii’s “open records” law).

By law, the State is required to respond to UIPA requests within ten days; even where extenuating circumstances exist, the State is required to at least begin providing access to documents within twenty business days after the person requesting the records pre-pays for those records. RBGG filed a formal request for government records with the DPS in September 2012, seeking documents relevant to the wrongful death cases of two Hawaii prisoners held at Corrections Corporation of America (“CCA”) prisons. Seven months later, and after RBGG pre-paid over $5,300 (as requested by PSD), not a single document has been produced. The lawsuit alleges that the mainland CCA lawyers representing the State of Hawaii in the wrongful death cases instructed PSD not to release the documents, in violation of state law.

Attorney Ernest Galvan of Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld said: “This is unacceptable. RBGG has followed the proper procedures to access these documents, we have complied with every request made of us by the PSD: we’ve clarified our request, we’ve pre-paid fees, and we’ve given them extension after extension. The State is obligated to produce these documents, and after waiting seven months for information that is supposed to take ten days to produce, our patience, and the patience of the families we represent, is at an end.”

ACLU of Hawaii Senior Staff Attorney Daniel Gluck said: “Hawaii’s open records law is expansive and clear; agencies have an obligation to respond to requests for records in a thorough and timely manner. We have done all we can to resolve this matter outside of the courts, but when the state ignores its obligations under the law, we have to step in.”

ACLU Mission Statement: The ACLU of Hawaii’s mission is to protect the fundamental freedoms contained in the state and federal constitutions through litigation, legislative and public education programs statewide.

Click on "1 attachment" at the end of this article to see the complaint filed today in the First Circuit Court.


Hawaii State and CCA Sued over Prisoner's Death [Hawaii Political Info] May 23, 2012

CCA Offers to Buy Govt-Owned Prisons Nationwide [Hawaii Political Info] Feb 16, 2012

Family of Hawaii Prisoner Murdered in Arizona Sues [Hawaii Political Info] Feb 15, 2012

Private Prison Corporation Offers Cash In Exchange For State Prisons [Huffington Post] Feb 14, 2012

Saguaro Correctional Center [Wikipedia]

As Private Prisons Enrich Lawmakers, Florida Legislature Pushes Massive Prison Privatization Plan [ThinkProgress] Jan 27, 2012

Private Prisons Don’t Save Money in Arizona [Fire Dog Lake] Jan 19, 2012

Using private prisons costs more than it seems [Honolulu Star-Advertiser] Jun 18, 2010

Judges Plead Guilty in Scheme to Jail Youths for Profit [The New York Times] Feb 13, 2009

Complaint_and_Summons.pdf628.64 KB