RESTRICTIVE CONDITIONS AND RETALIATION AGAINST WHISTLEBLOWERS AT PROSECUTOR’S “SAFE HOUSE” VIOLATE THE CONSTITUTION

Read the letter (PDF format): 6.26.19 HPSH anti-retaliation Letter

Honolulu, Hawai‘i: On June 26, 2019 the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawai‘i Foundation (ACLU) sent a demand letter to Acting Prosecuting Attorney Dwight Nadamoto, Hawai‘i Prosecutorʻs Safe House Director Sandra Kint, and Acting Corporation Counsel Paul Aoki after resident whistleblowers living at a domestic violence “Safe House” run by the Department of the Prosecuting Attorney were subjected to retaliation  for speaking out about their living conditions.

The “Safe House” – which was supposed to be a safe place for survivors of domestic violence pursuing cases against their alleged abusers – was a project spearheaded by Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro. It is funded and managed entirely out of the Prosecutor’s office through the City and County of Honolulu. Reports from residents began to emerge about unconstitutional and oppressive conditions routinely imposed on those living there. Amid mounting concerns, the project lost its funding at the City Council and is set to close in August, but for the people still living there – especially the whistleblowers – the concerns have escalated.

Since the “Safe House” opened in 2016, survivors of domestic violence living there have been subject to searches of their apartments, communications, and belongings; drug and alcohol testing; and restrictions on their ability to leave the house or communicate with friends and family.

Residents also reported a lack of adequate mental health and medical care and retaliation against residents who spoke out about the abuses, including eviction without the ability to appeal.

Nanci Kreidman, CEO of Hawaiiʻs Domestic Violence Action Center (DVAC) said: “DVAC has clients at the Safe House. It has been distressing to learn of the mistreatment these survivors have suffered. Trauma suffered at the hands of abusers must be mitigated through support from community based organizations, not exacerbated. “

ACLU of Hawai‘i Legal Director Mateo Caballero said: “Domestic violence survivors should not have to give up fundamental rights to find safe housing. The Honolulu Prosectorʻs office has re-victimized survivors for years, and retaliated against whistleblowers for speaking out – and that’s unconstitutional. We have put the Safe House on notice and will take action if necessary to stop the abuse.”