By Oliver de Silva
Maui Community Correctional Center sent inmates to do landscaping work for a prison guard’s private company, a new whistleblower retaliation complaint filed by former MCCC Correctional Officer Hendricks Haapu alleges. A 20-year vet of the prison, Haapu also alleges that he was “overworked, reassigned and verbally and physically harassed” when he complained about the labor to Sergeant Carl Duarte, his supervisor who also ran the landscaping company in question. Haapu filed his complaint against the State of Hawaii’s Department of Public Safety and individual correctional officers at the Maui Community Correctional Center (MCCC).
“A crew of inmates in the Community Workline Program was cleaning a section of land that was contracted to be landscaped by a private company,” Haapu alleges, according to a press release titled “Slave Labor at the Maui Prison” issued Nov. 15 by the civil rights law firm Fujiwara & Rosenbaum, which is representing Haapu. “The inmate crew from the MCCC was landscaping, amongst other private areas, an area of land along a highway on Maui that is owned by the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands ‘DHHL.'”
The Community Workline program allows nonprofit organizations and the County of Maui to request assistance from MCCC’s inmates when they need help with labor-intensive tasks. The Community Workline often works with the Department of Parks & Recreation setting up posts, rails, and other types of maintenance.
“Sergeant Duarte had a landscaping business that had been awarded a contract by DHHL to landscape the area that the MCCC inmates landscaped,” stated the Fujiwara & Rosenbaum press release. “Hawaii’s inmates were performing private work for Sergeant Duarte’s private landscaping company and Sergeant Duarte collected the fees for said work from the DHHL. This, at the very least, is a clear violation of the Department of Public Safety’s Department Administration Policy and Procedures… and the State Code of Ethics, Hawaii Revised Statutes.”
Duarte refused to comment for this story.
“Well, it’s too early for me to comment,” he said. “I don’t want to say nothing’s wrong or nothing’s right about it.”
What’s more, information on Duarte’s company wasn’t easy to find. Joseph Rosenbaum, Haapu’s attorney, gave the name as CD Landscaping, but there’s no such business listed with the State of Hawaii’s Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. There is, however, a Charles G Duarte Landscape Maintenance LLC located at 924 Lekeona Loop in Wailuku.
A spokesperson for the state’s Department of Public Safety also declined to comment on the complaint.
“The Department Of Public Safety Director has not been served any legal documents yet,” said Toni Schwartz, the department’s Public Information Officer. “We have been advised to reserve comment until we receive it and have had a chance to go over it with our Deputy Attorney General.”