Thursday, February 6, 2014

Musings: Peeking Through the Cracks

Sometimes, the facade of law and order cracks and we get a peek at what really lies beneath. Like the lurid look into the Kauai jail provided by two federal lawsuits alleging warden Neal Wagatsuma subjected female inmates to psychological violence, sexual abuse and sexual humiliation in front of male prisoners.

The claims are being made by former prison social worker Carolyn Ritchie and ex-inmate Alexandria Gregg. They allege Wagatsuma developed a rogue “treatment program” that involved male inmates videotaping female inmates while they detailed past episodes of sexual abuse and drug-induced sex, with the videos later shown to other detainees.  

Wagatsuma also allegedly held a jailhouse screening of a violent rape film; allowed male detainees to question women during "public sex shamings " which were sometimes videotaped; and harassed female inmates, requiring them to hold up sexually provocative photos of themselves as he called them "whores."

Women also allegedly were directed to write up accounts of traumatic sexual abuse suffered during childhood, with the reports posted in a book that inmates and staff could read. Those who refused to participate were allegedly transferred to other facilities, denied privileges or incarcerated in the most restrictive cell blocks.

As a result, the complaint states, many of the female inmates suffered "from various mental injuries." 

Ritchie claims she and others suffered retaliation after reporting the abuses, which the  state Department of Public Safety allegedly failed to properly investigate. Gregg filed a class action lawsuit that can be joined by female inmates who were incarcerated at KCCC up to five years ago.  They are represented by attorneys Margery Bronster and Dan Hempey.

Though Wagatsuma has won praise for his innovative approach to incarceration, he certainly has no authority to provide any sort of psychological treatment, especially using a homespun model that further victimizes women already suffering the effects of sexual abuse.

Meanwhile, yesterday's County Council meeting revealed a crack in that panel's facade of civility and collegiality. Though far less disturbing than the peek into the jail, it underscores the ugly rift that has developed in our community over the pesticide-GMO disclosure law, Bill 2491/Ordinance 960.

During a discussion on narrowing the scope of the related Environmental and Public Health Impacts Study (EPHIS), Councilman Tim Bynum angrily denounced Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, saying she “took command of this process and told the Council, my way or the highway.” He also laid into her during a heated exchange at last week's meeting.

Councilman Gary Hooser quickly piled on, saying JoAnn's amendments “weakened and diminished the intent of both 2491 and EPHIS. I'm disappointed it's not stronger.”

Well, Gary, that's what happens when you get too big for your britches and introduce a bill that you don't actually have the political power to pass — even when backed by fear-frenzied “fisties” and mainland groups.

Gary wanted to hog all the glory, so he made the conscious choice to team up with Tim, the Council's other political weakling, rather than JoAnn or Nadine Nakamura. As a result, he could only sit there impotently as they rearranged the bill — which he helped rush through and voted for repeatedly, let's not forget. So why is he dumping all the blame on JoAnn?

But some members of the Council were in a blaming mood. Though Tim, JoAnn and Council Chair Jay Furfaro all admitted the county should have conducted the EPHIS before it passed Bill 2491 — you know, so they could actually ascertain the scope of the problem before attempting to solve it — they refused to accept responsibility for putting the cart before the horse.

Instead, Jay and Tim blamed the state. “Why did these huge changes come to Kauai without review?” Tim said. “Huge changes were happening here on Kauai and nobody told us. We're here because nobody did the study.”

That still doesn't explain why the Council couldn't have ordered the study before passing the bill. No doubt the state could've done more, but did the county ever hold its feet to the fire?

As Councilman Mel Rapozo noted, in the discussion over whether the EPHIS should include an environmental justice component, doesn't the EPA typically deal with that? “Has anyone from the westside submitted such a request?” Mel asked to a resounding silence. “This Council constantly tries to do the work of others, and that concerns me.”

In eliminating environmental justice, economic impacts and food sustainability from the study, the Council majority also dealt a blow to the Gary-Tim-Mason Chock bloc, which was defeated in every amendment it put forth.

Gary's amendment tried to eliminate anyone “employed by or receiving any compensation or financial benefit from any entity directly impacted by Ordinance 960” from participating in the process, but a Council majority successfully argued that seed company workers are key stakeholders who cannot be excluded.

If you're currently suing the county and getting paid, you don't get to be a stakeholder,” said Tim, who is suing the county that pays him while continuing to serve on the Council.

Mel pointed out that Gary's amendment also would prevent any of the 150 westside residents now suing Pioneer from participating, prompting Tim to reply he didn't have a problem with that, because “what's good for the goose is good for the gander.”

After the EPHIS vote, Gary announced that he's “been spending a lot of the time at the Legislature.” Yes, we noticed. He didn't mention leading the “shame on you” chant at the People Not Profit rally, but instead focused on his attempts to derail the “right to farm” bills that could pre-empt 2491, which is being challenged in federal court. He said he hasn't asked the county to pay any of his transportation costs, though we are paying his salary while he lobbies the Lege.

Gary lauded state Sen. Ron Kouchi — previously excoriated by the “red shirts” for his ties to biotech — for helping to kill SB 110. That bill was a crude attempt by the Senate ag committee to push the legislation through using a despicable “gut and replace” technique in which the language from a live bill from the last session is replaced with new verbiage, giving the public little time or opportunity to respond. 

This prompted Tim to denounce the Legislature for its smarmy tactics, while conveniently forgetting his own role in the dubious maneuver of slipping Chock onto the Council to override the mayor's veto of Bill 2491.

Yes, once you start peeking through the cracks there's no shortage of sleazy scenes to be seen.


Tim Bynum said...

I do really appreciate your perspective even when I disagree. Just wanted to clarify my position was all stakeholders need to be represented. However if you are paid to be in the room you have fiduciary duty to your employer. if you're involved in a current lawsuit RELATED to the issue you should not participate in my opinion. The industry and west side citizens can easily identify individuals to represent their stakeholder group that are not personally paid to be there or actual parties to an ongoing relate suit. For example Scott McFarland could represent seed company interests as he is no longer employed by DOW and is the former President of HCIA (Hawaii Crop Improvement Association).

Anonymous said...

Some "heads should roll" at the jail for this terrible emotional trauma perpetrated on vulnerable women.

Your "cracks" expose all the "crackpots" running our island.

Zero Seven

Joan Conrow said...

Thanks for your comment, Tim, and I'm glad you appreciate my perspective. However, my lawyer friends inform me that a seed company employee has no "fiduciary duty" to his/her employer.

Also, since Scott is now working for the state hospital system, he might not wish to represent the interests of biotech firms.

Anonymous said...

Why is it that Mel Rapozo seems to be the only straight shooter on the Council.
Hooser and Bynam are smarmy.
Mason should be wary of who he gets in bed with, Hooser and Bynam would roll him out from under their warm covers and under the nearest firetruck if it was helpful to their anti-local agenda. Remember Mason, these two, two-faced politicos are against Hotels, against local housing, against PMRF, against Ag. Stick with the locals, they at least have heart and soul.

Top Hat Entertainment said...

3505The alleged accusations that are happening to women inmates, if found true, are beyond the violations of human rights. If this is true, I am will do what I personally can to make sure that this is brought into light and help these women that are already traumatized. Mahalo Joan.

Anonymous said...

Tim finally posted a comment with his real name, and not "anonymous" as he usually does.

Anonymous said...

I was at that jail for 5 months. I saw it first hand. He did it at special meetings where everyone had to attend then he’d select one female every time almost to chastise up in front of the whole gathering. Chastise is a very loose term for what he would say to these poor women. He also had little meetings outside at least once a day during what was called headcount. He would do the same thing. He did it to the guys too but you could tell he had some sort of mental problem and was more than likely more twisted than a lot of his charges. Very lurid and detailed sexual accusations and remarks demanding answers from them at the same time. He evidintally does have a very unique system that in the context of our community does seem to rehabilitate a lot of inmates. He was sadistic, biased, had favorites, promoted misogeny on and on. But as a male in the "easy" part of the jail I felt very little of his wrath. It wasn't pretty or professional. Sad is a good word. He was also unmarried and a workaholic as well as a meglomaniac of sorts. His little fiefdom with the favorites and unfairness that abounded. The jail was run by the guards and inmates on a day to day level. The warden had his fingers in every little corner of that place and let a lot of very questionable stuff go on. Much favoritism and racism.
You’re still up to the same shit Joan.. You have my attention because I think someone needs to hold you people accountable for fostering this dissent and division as well as the slander you’ve published about me in here.. Your choice of words betray you Joan. Sad because you seem to be on the ball in some ways like the first bit about the jail which was good. I support that kind of journalism. I haven't seen many really helpful feedback in here and Joan you're still hitting below the belt and showing us you're absolute bias. It's your blog but you stink sometime. More often than not because rather than dig up new material you wallow in the blah blah Haena blah blah vacation rental swamp. To me it lacks creativity as well as a number of psychological issues. You’re an Oahu transplant failing at trying to create a niche for yourself. To anyone with a brain it’s a sewing circle jerk of vitrol and fostering dissent and division.

Anonymous said...

Nice to see Tim is paying attention. Too bad he still doesn't get it.

Joan Conrow said...

2:51--Fyi, I'm not an Oahu transplant. As for your comment about the jail, I hope you step forward and help corroroborate the case being made by these women. Be brave.

Anonymous said...

It's about time the Jail house corruption has seen the light. This is another faction of the powerful Kauai Mafia/syndicates. There are many more to follow. Remember a murderer was able to sneak in pakalolo. Some of the guards are part of a violent malitia which acts as muscle for the Powers. It all connects to dirty cops, judges, lawyers, the courthouse employees, state and county employees.

Anonymous said...

Joann hijacked the process and Tim did nothing to stop her? We love politicians who stand silent when it matters and complain when it's too late.

Anonymous said...

What a joke you telling me to be brave. What arrogance. What ignorance. I will encourage you to get on warden's case. Write a letter to the Garden Island Joan and don't tell me to do a thing and act like you know more than me by suggesting you know better and I need to do as you suggest. Go down to the jail yourself and get an appointment with him and record it. Go nose around the jail. Find out the women in there and try to get on their visitor list and get your own information. You bore me.

Joan Conrow said...

I was being facetious because obviously you aren't brave or you wouldn't make Anon attacks.

Anonymous said...

To counter the dude who thinks you are boring/ I think your writing is exciting, informative, you often bring to light unknown issues and always can be counted on to think for herself rather than follow the crowd. I appreciate your writing and believe many others do do. And more so appreciate your intelligence, wit and bravery. Big Mahalo

Anonymous said...

That jail has been run like the wild wild west for decades. Good friends have told me they would rather go to Halawa because it at least has oversight. Halawa is held accountable, where KCCC is out in no mans land and the crazy leader does what he likes.
It is crazy this has gone on for so long, and known by so many who have gone through the system. My guess is a LOT of people are going to chime in on this legal battle.

Anonymous said...

I agree with 5:44. If you're bored by Joan's excellent blog, why bother reading or commenting? This is where I get the best stories...written with facts and truths. Keep up the good work Joan, and thank you for not backing down. There are many of us who really appreciate what you do.

Anonymous said...

Joan's blog gives more real news than the GI, forces thought and perhaps change, is well written, respected and feared.
And it gives a sinful joy for concerned people, whackadoos, and other assorted confused or balanced people to vent anonymously or if they want big time exposure sign their name.
Thank you, Joan......errrrr, unless you write anything that may expose friends.
BTW- Hello Council members, you all read this blog and wonder "Jeez-How many people read this darn thing"

Joan Conrow said...

Many thanks for your words of appreciation, encouragement and support!

Anonymous said...

I do not believe there is any place in a correctional facility for a warden to be calling female inmates whores especially in front of male prisoners.

Anonymous said...

Today's New York Times: "More than half of prisoners in the United States have a mental health problem, according to a 2006 Justice Department study. Among female inmates, almost three-quarters have a mental disorder."

Anonymous said...

re: mental disorders

50% of jail inmates? wonder what the percentage is for county council...