EXCLUSIVE: Former Kauai prison worker talks about alleged abuses

EXCLUSIVE: Former Kauai prison worker talks about alleged abuses
Published: Feb. 7, 2014 at 10:33 AM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A former prison social worker said the Kauai Community Correctional Center's warden Neal Wagatsuma terrorized inmates and employees.

"It was very intimidating for (inmates). It was very intimidating for me because I could feel (inmates') emotional levels," said Carolyn Ritchie.

Ritchie sued her former boss and the state Department of Public Safety, saying she was forced out of her job after she complained about sexual harassment of female inmates.

She said that prisoners were forced to watch a graphic films depicting the rape of a teenager and that female inmates were required disclose past sexual abuses while they were being filmed.

"I can see gross violations and injustices and an inability of the people to do anything about it," she said.

Former state Attorney General Margery Bronster represents Ritchie and former inmate Alexandria Gregg, who filed a separate class-action suit against Wagatsuma and the prison system.

"This is involvement in -- sexual involvement -- in the lives of inmates that's unwarranted," Bronster said.

"To hear this kind of thing is really shocking."

The alleged behavior was part of a program that the warden founded back in the 1990s. It's a highly acclaimed but controversial rehabilitation program called Lifetime Stand, or LTS.

The Department of Public Safety literature describes the program as having "paramilitary themes" that are "holistic" in nature.

Exercises like marching in step are all part of the curriculum.

But the lawsuits allege that LTS has a more sinister side, as women were forced to spill their guts about their darkest sexual secrets and air them out in front of male inmates. The suits allege that the warden referred to women as "whores" and other derogatory terms.

"This is not rehabilitation, this is harassment," Bronster said.

The Department of Public Safety declined comment.

Copyright 2014 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.