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Federal inmates in gang case go on hunger strike

Prisoners' complaints include loss of visits, maggots in food and no clean underwear

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 07:29 a.m. HST, Apr 12, 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 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, dungeonlike."

"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."

Jennifer Sinco Kelleher, Associated Press

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Acck wrote:
My trouble with this article is how the attorneys play into the false allegations. I guess that's how lawyers get bad reputations.
on April 12,2014 | 06:08AM
Acck wrote:
Maybe those inmates that were pleading guilty, were actually guilty of crime. Don't need to be a lawyer to figure that out. But then again, they only put innocent people in jail.
on April 12,2014 | 06:12AM
Makua wrote:
This whole thing is a farce. Each floor is a separate two wing prison with either wing being male or female. They all get their food from one kitchen positioned at the bottom of the building. Are all the floors complaining about maggots? Bed bogs, if really present, should be easy to remedy - hose the total concrete cell, plus new mattress. The SHU is bad because you are alone for 23 hours in your own cell only able to look out a tall narrow window, seeing all the planes come and go, wishing you could be out there. How do I know this? I helped build it. Prisoners want their lives improved..........they did the crime, so be quiet and do the time.
on April 12,2014 | 06:19AM
jmarie wrote:
The way I see it every inmate they showed could use to loose a few pounds, these are local crumbs give them a few day and they will be chowing down!
on April 12,2014 | 07:40AM
cojef wrote:
Find it strange that one prisoner wants to return to the Arizona holding facility, thus participating in the fast, without regard to maggots in the food or underwear complaints. As the article indicated some of the hunger strike complainers were gang members while incarcerated at Arizona Private Prison. Trumped-up charges? Cannot believe that in this day and age, prisoners are fed with maggots in their food. If true, someone in the kitchen is getting rich at the expense of the prisoners.
on April 12,2014 | 08:24AM
DABLACK wrote:
Could it be worms from the beans ?? Doesn't look right !! What about the taste ?? The warden going say the prisoners need the protein !!!
on April 12,2014 | 09:05AM
HOSSANA wrote:
Why is the newspaper giving these scumbags any publicity or for that matter why is this newsworthy?? As far as I'm concerned, let them starve. Geezus, what about the victims from these scumbags..can you imagine what they're thinking.....these scumbags don't deserve any ounce of privilege....let them starve....nothing more and nothing less.
on April 12,2014 | 10:30AM
HOSSANA wrote:
Why is the newspaper giving these scumbags the time of the day?? Let them starve!! That would be their contribution to society.
on April 12,2014 | 10:31AM
HOSSANA wrote:
Why is this newspaper giving these scumbags the time of the day???
on April 12,2014 | 10:31AM
HOSSANA wrote:
on April 12,2014 | 10:34AM
bobbob wrote:
What of the rights of their victims? They should be thankful that they have 3 meals and a room to stay in. Our homeless people aren't in prison for a crime, and dont even have that. Maggots have a lot of protein, and are eaten in other countries. Perhaps eating a few would help remind them that jail is not where they want to be when they get back on the outside.
on April 12,2014 | 01:24PM
bpet wrote:
There seems to be a 'disconnect' here . . .these prisoners were found guilty of heinous crimes, and they want the conditions of the Hilton Hawaiian Village?
on April 12,2014 | 02:56PM
scooters wrote:
Good! Saves on the food bill feeding those crumbs...they could stand to lose some weight anyway...
on April 12,2014 | 03:36PM
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 12,2014 | 04:06PM
steveoctober wrote:
Trade agreement with North Korea needs to be looked at. They have excellent labor camps where we can send off these troublemakers.
on April 12,2014 | 04:13PM
gmejk wrote:
Well boo hoo hoo. Don't feel sorry for these criminals at all!
on April 12,2014 | 08:57PM
nitpikker wrote:
do they really expect public sympathy?? get real!
on April 12,2014 | 09:45PM
gmejk wrote:
These guys hurt people by their criminal actions, continue to do idiotic things in prison and STILL get three square meals a day, roof over their heads, prison library, TV, medical, dental ALL at our expense. Cry me a river.
on April 12,2014 | 10:32PM
Acck wrote:
I wonder how many are still on strike today?
on April 12,2014 | 10:00PM
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