People Cleared of Wrongdoing Were Held in Jail, Treated Like Criminals, ACLU of Hawai'i Charges
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
HONOLULU– Prolonged detention of individuals cleared by a jury of wrongdoing is a travesty of justice, according to legal papers filed today by the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawai`i in a class action lawsuit.
“”It is bad enough that innocent individuals are being forced to stay in custody awaiting the opportunity to prove their innocence, but even more astounding is that this shameful treatment continues even after they are cleared of wrongdoing,”” said Brent White, Legal Director of the ACLU of Hawai`i.
According to the complaint, filed in U.S. District Court, plaintiffs Gregory Tapaoan, Michael Mars, Pedro Paula Ribeiro and hundreds of other individuals were, after being acquitted in criminal cases, handcuffed, shackled and placed in court holding cells for hours by officials of the Sheriff Division of the Department of Public Safety.
The lawsuit is brought on behalf of hundreds of innocent individuals who were wrongly detained by Hawai`i after being acquitted of charges in separate cases and ordered released by the courts.
The ACLU complaint said that the individuals were chained with other prisoners, transported back to Oahu Community Correction Center, forced to submit to invasive bodily strip searches, and confined to prison cells for hours and sometimes days. While in detention, they were subjected to unreasonable conditions of confinement, including being denied food, denied permission to make phone calls, forced to wear jail clothing, and harassed and threatened by prison guards.
The ACLU said it has learned that this practice has been going on for at least ten years, despite the fact that it is a clear violation of the rights of innocent individuals. “”It is so unfortunate that it takes a lawsuit to stop the practice,”” said White. “”When you are found not guilty, you are supposed to be free to walk out the front of the courthouse like everyone else.””
The lawsuit seeks a court order barring the state from confining and strip-searching acquitted individuals and asks for monetary compensation for those who have already been subject to the unconstitutional practice.
A similar lawsuit against the County of Los Angeles was settled in August for a record $27 million. The ACLU is being assisted in the lawsuit by the law firm of Davis, Levin, Livingston, Grande.
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