- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 1, 2016

HONOLULU (AP) - A former psychiatric social worker at Kauai Community Correctional Center was forced out of her job for trying to protect female inmates from a warden who allegedly subjected them to sexual humiliation and discrimination, her attorney told jurors at the start of trial in her lawsuit Tuesday.

Carolyn Ritchie’s 2014 lawsuit says female inmates complained to her about “fear, shame and feelings of psychological torture” from the warden forcing them to describe their sexual pasts while being videotaped as part of a program he created. The lawsuit against the state, the state Department of Public Safety and Neal Wagatsuma in his official capacity as warden of the Kauai correctional facility, alleges inmates were forced to watch rape films and female inmates were denied the same work furlough opportunities as male inmates.

The state denies her “wild allegations,” Deputy Attorney General Bosko Petricevic told jurors. Ritchie never witnessed any of it, he said, and there was nothing inappropriate about the program Wagatsuma created for lower-risk inmates.

No one was forced to talk about anything at daily meetings, though sometimes an inmate’s past abuse would come up, Petricevic said. Sometimes Wagatsuma would show “legitimate, mainstream artistic movies” in an effort to discourage male inmates from committing rape and to teach female inmates how to lower the risks of becoming victims, Petricevic said.

“They were not done to sexually shame anyone,” he said.

Men and women were allowed to participate in the work furlough program, but some employers only wanted to hire men, he said.

“The state chose to defend the indefensible,” by never conducting a fair and impartial review into whether Wagatsuma’s program was effective and not discriminatory, Ritchie’s attorney, Margery Bronster, told jurors.

“She felt she had a duty to stop the discriminatory and inhumane treatment of inmates,” but each time Ritchie reported the allegations to various agencies, Wagatsuma retaliated against her, Bronster said.

Jail employees were encouraged to harass Ritchie, including an incident where she was “accidentally” locked in a solitary confinement unit, her lawsuit said.

A companion lawsuit by a former inmate made similar allegations. That lawsuit was dismissed because of statute of limitations issues. The dismissal is being appealed.

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