“Hawaiian prisoners fight for right to marry”

Today, ACLU Hawai‘i’s Senior Staff Attorney, Dan Gluck, was interviewed by Radio Australia, regarding a lawsuit filed by ACLU Hawai‘i on May 15, 2012 on behalf of four women who were denied the right to marry their fiancés, who are incarcerated in Saguaro Correctional Facility in Eloy, Arizona, by Hawai‘i’s Department of Public Safety. (See below for documents from the lawsuit).)

Here to LISTEN to the 5 minute interview and for full transcript of interview.

In the interview, Gluck explains that no law allows the Department of Public Safety to deny these couples the right to marry. “Our United States Supreme Court decided a case 25 years ago (Turner v. Safley, 1987) that said not only that prisoners retain a fundamental right to get married, but that where a prisoner wants to marry someone who’s not incarcerated, where a prisoner wants to marry a civilian, the government has virtually no interest whatsoever. So there’s no authority for them to even pretend that they can deny these people the ability to marry.”

The basic claim of the lawsuit is “under the 14th amendment of [the U.S.] constitution which provides that no one shall be deprived of liberty without due process of law, and our courts have long interpreted this to mean that couples have a fundamental right to get married and the state shall not interfere with that, and to do so is a violation of their right to due process.”

According to Gluck, although this issue of prisoners being denied the right to marry comes up occasionally in other states, it is usually resolved at an informal level because the law is “so clear.” “Our state seems to be the only one that they are imposing a blanket prohibition on individuals marrying.”

According to an ACLU Hawai‘i blog post, “State officials repeatedly wrote the women’s fiancés a form letter denying the marriage on the basis that, “[a]s a Ward of the State incarcerated in a correctional facility, you are incapable of providing the necessary emotional, financial and physical support that every marriage needs in order to succeed”. The lawsuit “follows an ACLU action 18 months earlier, in which some of the same prison officials (Kimoto and then-Director Clayton Frank) denied a marriage application using the same form letter. After an ACLU inquiry, DPS agreed to stop the practice, allowed the couple to be wed, and in June 2011, issued a written policy on marriage applications to better comply with the law. The case filed…is in response to a continuing stream of unlawful denials reported to the ACLU since June 2011.”

In the blog post, Gluck points out that “the Constitution prohibits Government officials from imposing their morals and judgment on others. DPS’s practices are not only illegal, they hinder prisoners from developing committed relationships that can help their rehabilitation and improve their chances of being productive when they complete their sentences and re-enter society.”

Documents from the lawsuit (from acluhi.org):
Santos v. Kimoto – Complaint 5.15.12
Motion for Preliminary Injunction
ACLU Brief in Support of Motion for Preliminary Injunction

Related Articles:
ACLU: Hawaii Denied Prisoners Marriage Rights, Chad Blair, Honolulu Civil Beat, May 5, 2012
How Hawaii prevents prisoners from marrying, Sadhbh Walshe, The Guardian, July 19, 2012

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