Taxpayers are on the hook for $180,000 to settle a decade-old case involving a few prison guards who slapped, punched, choked and otherwise inappropriately handled kids detained at the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility.
The lawsuit blames the state for failing to properly train and supervise the youth correctional officers involved in the incidents, which took place in the early 2000s.
One of the officers was convicted of assaulting one of the teens, but the others maintain that the force used was reasonable and necessary.
The $180,000 settlement is one of 14 claims totaling just over $983,000 that the Legislature is considering whether to approve. The appropriations bill crossed over to the Senate after the House unanimously signed off on it Tuesday.
It took until 2013 for all the parties to reach an agreement. The plaintiffs in the case are four of the kids (or their guardians) who were apparently mistreated. The defendants include five correctional officers, the State of Hawaii, the Department of Human Services and the state Office of Youth Services.
Tom Bush, of the Honolulu law firm Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing, negotiated the settlement on behalf of the defendants. He declined to comment until it has been approved.
Anne Lopez, spokeswoman for the state Attorney General’s office, said there have been many discussions over the years about settlements, but the parties were just too far apart to reach an agreement until last year.
Court-ordered mediation had determined the case had a settlement value of roughly $200,000.
There were six instances of abuse involving the four former wards, according to the AG’s testimony on the claims bill. The lawsuit details the incidents.
In December 2004, a corrections officer grabbed one of the kids in his cell, hit him in the face, grabbed his throat and started to choke him. After throwing the kid on the ground, the officer then jumped on his back, placing a knee on his spine and slammed his face into the concrete floor while continuing to choke him, according to the lawsuit.
In an April 2002 incident involving a different detainee and officer, the kid was “tussling” with another ward with an officer intervened and “clotheslined” him, causing the kid to fall backward on the concrete floor and hit his head.