Suit: Kauai warden sexually traumatized women inmates

Suit: Kauai warden sexually traumatized women inmates
Published: Feb. 6, 2014 at 12:20 AM HST|Updated: Feb. 6, 2014 at 3:43 PM HST
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Neal Wagatsuma
Neal Wagatsuma

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Two federal court lawsuits alleged that a Kauai prison warden forced female prisoners to watch violent pornography and confess their darkest sexual secrets in front of male prisoners.

The lawsuits, filed on behalf of an ex-inmate and a former prison social worker, said the Kauai warden -- Neal Wagatsuma -- used the public sexual shamings as part of a treatment program for prisoners.

But experts said the alleged behavior doesn't fit into any prescribed prison rehabilitation plan.

"You have a sorta voyeuristic set of individuals running a pseudo-therapeutic intervention," said University of Hawaii criminologist and women's studies professor Meda Chesney Lind.

"That's a recipe for disaster."

Kat Brady, coordinator for the Community Alliance on Prisons added:

"It's just unconscionable. It's not only against all best practices but it's against morality," she said.

"Why would you do something like that to somebody who has been hurt?"

The Department of Public Safety declined comment, saying they have not seen the lawsuits.

The suits, which were filed by former Hawaii Attorney General Margery Bronster's firm, also alleged that Wagatsuma referred to female inmates as "whores" and "batunas," a local slang term for women who engage in sex for drugs.

The complaints also allege that female inmates were filmed as they talked about how they were sexually abused in the past.

Former prison social worker Carolyn Ritchie said she tried to report the abuses but was retaliated against and was forced to leave her job.

Chesney Lind said the problems cited in the lawsuits are not uncommon in Hawaii's prison system.

"Hawaii has a sorry history of this," she said.

"(It) fits into a pattern in women's prisons here --- which is of abuse of women inmates and revictimization of those who have had traumatic sexual victimization histories."

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