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Hawaii Warden Allegedly Sexually Abuses Female Prisoners In Guise of Rehabilitation


By Christopher Zoukis

A Hawaii prison warden who allegedly forced female prisoners to disclose their sexual history -- in some cases while being filmed or in front of male prisoners -- is being sued in the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii in a class action suit being prosecuted by former Hawaii Attorney General Margery Bronster.

The case, Gregg v. State of Hawaii, No. 1:14-cv-00056-JMS-KSC (D. Hawaii), alleges in a 28-page complaint that the former warden at Kauai Correction Center, Neal Wagatsuma, filled his "public sexual shamings" and "belittled female detainees in front of other male detainees and required the female detainees to hold up provocative, sexual photographs of themselves as he called them 'whores.'"

Wagatsuma is being sued along with Hawaii's director of its Department of Public Safety, Ted Sakai, and the state.  Lead plaintiff Alexandria Gregg alleged that Wagatsuma called her derogatory names and publicly "shamed" her; female prisoners were routinely asked about what they thought about while they masturbated and other humiliating subjects.  If the women refused to participate, they were deemed "uncooperative" and sent back to "more restrictive and punitive [jail] modules," or were transferred to other prisons.

The complaint alleges that Wagatsuma's abuses included "the screening of a twenty-minute film that depicted the rape of a young adolescent female.  The film appeared realistic and included graphic, violent images of the young female screaming as she was raped.  The film traumatized [Plaintiff Gregg] and the other class member female [prisoners]."

The sexual abuse of the prisoners was allegedly carried out in connection with a program called Lifetime Stand, or LTS, that Wagatsuma created in the 1990s. The Department of Public Safety claims in its literature that the program has "paramilitary themes" that are "holistic" in nature.  Marching and other military-base behaviors are utilized.

While LTS is claimed to be a "rehabilitative" program, former Attorney General Bronster says, "This is not rehabilitation, this is harassment."

A former social worker at the Kauai prison, Carolyn Ritchie, has also filed suit, and is represented by Bronster's firm.  She alleges in her suit that she was forced out of her job after she complained about Wagatsuma's tactics.  She claims that female prisoners were forced to disclose past sexual abuses on film.  "I can see gross violations and injustices and an inability of the people to do anything about it," Ritchie said.

The lawsuit was dismissed in August 2014 and is now on appeal.



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