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Ex-prison guards charged with sex assaults at women’s prison

HONOLULU (AP) — Two former correctional officers have been charged with sexually assaulting inmates at a prison for women in Hawaii.

One indictment accuses defendant Gauta Vaa of assaulting an inmate four times in 2015 at the Women’s Community Correctional Center in Kailua.

Another indictment says Brent Baumann assaulted three inmates over a nine-month period during the same year.

Both officers have pleaded not guilty.

The state Department of Public Safety has fired the defendants. It says it complies with federal requirements for handling prison sex assaults and has taken steps to protect inmates.

Attorney Myles Breiner, who is representing some former inmates in a civil lawsuit against the state, said there’s a “culture of corruption” at the prison.

“We’re not properly supervising the guards,” he said. “We’re not properly keeping everybody under surveillance.”

Guards smuggled in snacks, cosmetics and drugs in exchange for sexual favors, Breiner said.

“Unfortunately, many of these (guards) feel that’s one of the prerequisites of office, that one of the benefits of being a correctional officer is to have access to female inmates,” he said.

After leaving the prison, women who have been assaulted have battled depression and drug abuse, Breiner said. One committed suicide, he said.

The department said in a statement Thursday that it doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

Possible criminal convictions in the trial set for next year could factor into settlement negotiations in the civil case.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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