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Federal inmates wage hunger strike over living conditions

By Jennifer Sinco Kelleher

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 03:13 p.m. HST, Apr 11, 2014

A handful of inmates indicted on charges of being part of a prison gang have waged a hunger strike to protest conditions at Honolulu's Federal Detention Center.

Attorneys for the inmates say about eight stopped eating Sunday to protest isolation in a segregated unit and conditions that include a lack of clean underwear, loss of family visits and maggots in food.

The facility's spokesman, Jeffrey Greene, said allegations of insects in food and dirty clothes are unfounded. He said he could not confirm whether the hunger strike was taking place because of safety and security reasons.

Federal Bureau of Prisons policy on hunger strikes calls for regular medical evaluations if an inmate has not eaten for more than 72 hours. If an inmate's life or health is threatened, "involuntary medical treatment will be administered."

Inmate Moses Thompson is leading the hunger strike. He came up with the idea while reading in his cell about Nelson Mandela and peaceful resistance, Thompson's attorney Neal Kugiya said.

Thompson was in an Arizona prison serving a life sentence for murder, but returned to Honolulu when he and 17 others were indicted for alleged membership in the "USO Family" gang. Some are awaiting trial, while others have pleaded guilty.

Authorities say the prison gang has spread as Hawaii sends inmates to prisons in other states because of limited space. The indictment alleges the gang was involved in drug-trafficking, bribery and violence.

Kugiya provided The Associated Press letters handwritten by Thompson and two other inmates about the hunger strike. The prisoners wrote that none of them did anything to warrant placement in the Special Housing Unit, known as the SHU, where they are segregated from the general population and in cells 23 hours per day.

The attorneys say they were told their clients were being housed in the special unit because of a lack of space.

The Bureau of Prisons can't discuss conditions or confinement of individual inmates, spokesman Chris Burke said. But a lack of space is not typically a reason for segregated housing, he said. An inmate might be segregated for discipline or for protection, Burke said.

Louis Ching, who represents William Shinyama, who is accused of being a gang member while serving a state sentence for robbery, described the segregated unit as "dimly lit, dungeon-like."

"There's rows and rows of individual cells that are highly locked up," he said. "It's just very, very isolated."

Attorneys have tried to take up the issue with the judge handling the case, but the courts don't have authority over the facility, attorney Todd Eddins said. "Basically, it's the warden's decision," he said.

Eddins said his client, Shadrach Unea, is not part of the hunger strike because he doesn't think the maggots were deliberate and he eventually received more than one pair of underwear.

Some attorneys said the conditions are affecting how defendants are handling their indictments.

Shinyama, who is participating in the hunger strike, decided to plead guilty to the indictment without a deal — against his lawyer's advice. Shinyama had only three or four years remaining on his original sentence, but now faces a mandatory sentence of 12 to 19 years, Ching said.

Shinyama just wants to go back to a state prison, Ching said.

"He couldn't say that or else the judge would reject the plea," he said.

Attorney Teresa Morrison said the facility's conditions partly affected her client Clarence Butler's decision to take a plea deal, which is scheduled for a hearing Tuesday. Butler, who isn't part of the hunger strike, is planning to plead guilty to allegations that he was part of an Arizona prison assault to further the gang's control.

Inmates could claim later that their pleas were involuntary because of prison conditions, University of Hawaii criminal law professor Kenneth Lawson said.

Lawson, who served 10 months in a West Virginia federal penitentiary for obtaining prescription painkillers through fraudulent means, said inmates dread segregation.

Inmate Tineimalo Adkins, who is on strike, wants to go to trial, said his attorney, Marcus Sierra.

"The maggots in the food — I think that was the last straw for him," Sierra said. "I hope he doesn't intend on holding out until the very end."

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paniolo wrote:
TOO BAD. Your fault for ending up in there in the first place. No home-cooked meals for you.
on April 11,2014 | 02:45PM
livinginhawaii wrote:
Sorry but no sympathy here. How about some Aloha for their victims and tax payers by simply letting them continue to refuse food? Hunger strikes are a complete joke as they will reach a point where they will not be able to continue. This should not even be news.....
on April 11,2014 | 02:55PM
Kahaluuboy wrote:
How about this....give them a tarp and put them in the yard. Bring in the homeless and let them stay\eat\watch tv\exercise. See who complains then...homeless get a meal and warm dry bed and the real clowns get what they deserve.
on April 11,2014 | 03:29PM
control wrote:
"Shinyama just wants to go back to a state prison, Ching said." Well, duh! They want to go back so they can continue drug-trafficking, bribery and violence. The Feds won't let them have any fun.
on April 11,2014 | 03:35PM
sak wrote:
The system wants to turn these prisoners into cannibals. Maggots eating their own kind, Maggots. How Cruel?
on April 11,2014 | 03:49PM
pcman wrote:
Not our (Hawaii) problem. The Feds can handle their upkeep. Who said prison is fun? Who said prison is easy? TVs should be taken away. In Tokyo, they have no air conditioning or heat. They eat fish heads and rice. They have no conjugal visits. They can exercise (sit ups and pushups) in their cells, if their cell mates don't object.
on April 11,2014 | 03:58PM
Grimbold wrote:
For proven membership in a gang death penalty would be my favored treatment.
on April 11,2014 | 04:04PM
Knowlege wrote:
haha... that's so funny that these "tough" USO gang members are whining.
on April 11,2014 | 04:28PM
localguy wrote:
Can't do the time, don't do the crime. As if anyone cares how much these losers whine about complain. Your conditions meet all federal standards. Deal with it.
on April 11,2014 | 04:44PM
First-Responder wrote:
Hawaii prisons are corrupt, poorly managed and inmates have too much say in how things are done. BOP on the other hand runs their facilities professionally, conduct operations 'by the book' and inmates are treated like prisoners. I kinda like what that Sheriff in Arizona does - pink underwear, tents in the sun and a vacancy sign out front.
on April 11,2014 | 05:08PM
Solara wrote:
How about bright pink uniforms for all prisoners? Including underwear... Maybe looking at the color all day, every day might influence them to love one another more. :P
on April 11,2014 | 07:10PM
Slow wrote:
Are you a Joe Arpaio fan? Ball and chain. Contempt and ridicule. Punishment on top of punishment. Primitive living conditions. And Arizona's recidivism rate has been unchanged. But Joe is popular in Arizona. Moist prisoners emerge some day. i want them to have the means to survive outside the prison walls. Do you?
on April 12,2014 | 12:40PM
localguy wrote:
You do understand the article is about the Federal prison, not Hawaii run prisons. Major difference.
on April 11,2014 | 10:26PM
bumba wrote:
Marcus Sierra was a ruthless Prosecuting Attorney before he sold out for the money and began defending these criminals. His credibility is just below that of slug slime.
on April 11,2014 | 05:23PM
Ronin006 wrote:
There are no maggots in the food. The maggots are the prisoners eating the food.
on April 11,2014 | 05:26PM
Ronin006 wrote:
Thompson was serving a life sentence in Arizona for murder. Why would the feds want to return him to Hawaii to be tried for alleged membership in the "USO Family" gang when his sentence, if found guilty, might be nothing more than probation? It makes no sense.
on April 11,2014 | 05:42PM
soundofreason wrote:
Sounds like a self solving situation here.
on April 11,2014 | 07:15PM
den1718 wrote:
Some people never change . Im sure most of these guys were given an opportunity to change there life around . Sad situation.
on April 11,2014 | 07:44PM
ISCREAM wrote:
Put them in solitary...it is prison.
on April 11,2014 | 08:04PM
Slow wrote:
Solitary is kind of expensive. Let's just draw straws and see who gets to torture them to death. Why waste money on solitary and we, the good people, can have a little fun.
on April 12,2014 | 12:51PM
lee1957 wrote:
Are these guys great americans or what? Way to save taxpayers money!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
on April 11,2014 | 08:10PM
NieleHK wrote:
72 hours & then forced feeding? Let's wait a bit longer, how does 72 days sound?
on April 11,2014 | 08:21PM
sailfish1 wrote:
Why publicize this? If they don't want to eat, that's their prerogative. If they die, that's their own doing.
on April 11,2014 | 08:44PM
HOSSANA wrote:
To hell with them. They want to go on a hunger strike...let them do it. Don't feel sorry for them and don't waste time giving them medical examinations. Who the hell they think they are anyway???
on April 11,2014 | 08:54PM
Slow wrote:
Ho brah, you one tuffy, yeah?
on April 12,2014 | 12:52PM
hikine wrote:
Is Moses Thompson comparing himself to Nelson Mandela, really? Did he actually go there? Send him to Africa and see how Mandela actually lived in prison! Do prisoners think that the public owe them something? These are hardened criminals and they DEMAND better living conditions like they're privileged? Air conditioned prison, free meals, free medical and they want more? This is not the Hilton where they can order room service people! Let them starve and give the food to the homeless who go hungry every night!
on April 12,2014 | 01:00AM
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