Lawyer claims Hawaii prisoners are harassed at Arizona prison

Lawyer claims Hawaii prisoners are harassed at Arizona prison
Published: Nov. 23, 2012 at 9:28 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 24, 2012 at 2:08 AM HST
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SUGUARO, ARIZONA (HawaiiNewsNow) -- - A Honolulu lawyer who represents about 70 Hawaii inmates at an Arizona prison said officials there routinely harass and retaliate against some of those inmates for bringing complaints about their treatment behind bars.

Hawaii inmates at Saguaro Correctional Center in Arizona often use the phone to talk to their Hawaii-based attorneys, such as Myles Breiner.

But he said officials at the prison routinely listen to the prisoners' side of the conversations and take notes on their contents, a violation of attorney-client privilege.

"Inmates, as a result, are intimidated.  They are reluctant to discuss anything over the phone," Breiner said. "Our clients are told, 'Why do you need that lawyer?  You don't need that lawyer. We can help you without that attorney.'"

Breiner said Saguaro inmates who file complaints about abuse by guards, improper medical attention and other problems with staff are retaliated against with unfair misconduct violations, which can make them ineligible to get parole.

"Inmates who are pursuing litigation have a disproportionate number of misconducts filed against them by the facility," Breiner said.

A spokesman for Corrections Corporation of America, the private company that owns the prison where Hawaii houses more than 1,600 of its inmates, released a statement responding to some of Breiner's allegations.

"CCA takes the safety and dignity of the inmates entrusted to our care very seriously," said Steven Owen, senior director of public affairs for the prison company. "We have a zero-tolerance policy for any form of retaliation and take any such allegations very seriously."

Owen said the Saguaro Correctional Center has a "robust grievance process" that inmates can use to voice concerns or complaints, and he said the prison encourages them to do so.

But Breiner has other complaints.

"The warden has a habit of referring to me as 'That Jew lawyer. That Jew lawyer Myles Breiner." They hope to have me put in segregation," Briener said.

In a letter he wrote to Hawaii's Attorney General David Louie, Breiner said his clients tell him the prison warden and his assistant warden say they want to lock Breiner up if he visits the facility.

"What's not fine is attempting to interfere with confidential attorney-client communication, and then attempting to intimidate the attorneys who have been retained to assist them in asserting their 8th amendment rights and their constitutional rights," Breiner said.  The 8th amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment as well as excessive fines and bail.

A state prisons department spokeswoman said her department will look into these allegations and takes the charges seriously.

But since Breiner just sent the letter of complaint on Wednesday, the day before the Thanksgiving holiday, neither Hawaii prisons officials nor a spokesman at the Attorney General's office said they had seen it Friday.

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