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Family of Hawaii inmate killed in Arizona prison sues state, CCA

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    Guards escort a prisoner inside the privately run Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy, Ariz. on Oct. 16, 2009. In a first in the criminal justice world, the state's death row inmates could become the responsibility of a private company. (Monica Almeida/The New York Times)


The family of another inmate from Hawaii killed in a privately run prison in Arizona has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit today against the state of Hawaii and Corrections Corporation of America, the prison operator.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of mother, sister and two aunts of Clifford Medina, 23, who was being held  at the CCA-operated Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy, Ariz. Medina was strangled by another inmate, Mahinauli Silva, 22, on June 8, 2010. Silva was serving a 10-year sentence for robbery, burglary and theft.

Medina was serving a five-year sentence following a probation violation.

The Department of Public Safety, which administers the state’s corrections system  said the attorney general will review the filing and take appropriate action.

According to the complaint filed in Circuit Court today, CCA’s "pattern of greed-driven corner-cutting and short-staffing" contributed to Medina’s death. The lawsuit also charged that prison company’s indifference and failure to protect the inmate contributed to his death.

The complaint contends that CCA failed to control gang violence at Saguaro, failed to properly classify prisoners and failed to adequately staff the prison. The suit also charged the state of contributing to Medina’s death "by abdicating responsibility to inmates in its charge" by turning them over to CCA, and then failing to adequately monitor conditions at Saguaro.

On Feb. 15, the family of Bronson Nunuha, another Hawaii prisoner who was murdered at the Saguaro facility four months before Medina was killed, filed a lawsuit against the state and CCA, alleging similar deficiencies at the privately run prison. Nunuha’s family is represented by the same American Civil Liberties Union legal team that filed today’s complaint over Medina’s wrongful death.


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