The head of a controversial wilderness program for troubled youth says he will sue the state to win permission to operate in Hawaii.
A Circuit Court judge issued a temporary restraining order Monday preventing the Challenger V program from operating in Hawaii until it gets proper licensing from the state. The state had shut the program down Dec. 6.Stephen Cartisano, founder of the Challenger program, says he's being singled out because a 16-year-old girl died while taking part in a similar program in Utah operated by Cartisano.
Cartisano faces a charge of negligent homicide in Utah for the death of 16-year-old Cristen Chase.
"There are a number of wilderness programs throughout the country. There's about five programs in the state of Hawaii. I've run in Hawaii before," Cartisano said. "We're being singled out for some different standard."
Deputy Attorney General Tom Farrell said the Challenger program was shut down because it is dangerous.
"For us to turn a blind eye and let this program operate here and wait until we have another death in the program in Hawaii is not what the attorney general's office is going to do," Farrell said.
Cartisano says Farrell is being overzealous in his actions against Challenger.
"For a state official to come out and say he's gonna run people out of town . . . this is not the Wild West, this is not Dodge City 100 years ago . . . that's completely outrageous," Cartisano said. "We're going to pursue this all the way to the end."
Cartisano also disputes the state's claim that he hasn't acquired proper licensing, saying there are no specific licenses that deal with wilderness programs.
"We called over 20 state agencies," Cartisano said. "We did do it right, we did check."
But in issuing his preliminary injunction Monday, Judge Ronald Ibarra said the program is covered by state child care laws.
Farrell said if there are programs similar to Challenger's operating in Hawaii, his office will go after them as well.