Prison warden admits female inmates made to watch sexually-violent films

Updated: Nov. 2, 2016 at 6:31 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Kauai Community Correctional Center's warden admitted in federal court Wednesday that he showed female inmates sexually-violent movies and used terms like "whore" and other derogatory words when talking to women prisoners.

But Neal Watagsuma claims the films have therapeutic value for reforming inmates and that the derogatory statements were taken out of context.

"When somebody does something wrong ... it's about chastising them. It's a good thing," he said.

Wagatsuma's testified on the second day of a federal court trial in a case brought by former Kauai prison social worker Carolyn Ritchie.

She said she was forced out after she reported that inmates were being made to watch sexually-explicit films and other alleged offenses. Ritchie said it was wrong to show images of rape to women prisoners, who had often suffered from sexual abuse themselves.

Hawaii News Now first reported on the lawsuit in 2014.

Under questioning by Ritchie's attorney, Margery Bronster, Wagatsuma admitted that he had no mental health background. He also said that the KCCC's Lifetime Stand prison reform program, which he created, is not accredited and has not been reviewed by prison and mental health professionals.

Wagatsuma also said there are no measures on whether the program prevents inmates from going back to prison again.

Attorney Eric Seitz, who has sued the prison system several times, said the warden's so-called treatment program is bizarre.

"We've had these scared straight types of programs for kids and others that have been used over the past decades. Most have been discredited. Most of been shown to have not really worked," he said.

If the state loses the whistleblower lawsuit, taxpayers could be on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages. The trial resumes next week.

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