Monday, US News reported on a female Hawaiian inmate who committed suicide in her cell. Her father, Richard Fortson, has been questioning authorities. He believes his daughter was isolated for far too long, which led to her death.
30-year-old prison inmate Jessica Fortson is a mother of two. The woman prisoner was found unresponsive in her solitary cell on July 11. Medical officers soon confirmed she was dead.
Prison Suicide: Female Hawaiian Inmate Had Mental Health Issues
Fortson said his daughter had been suffering from bipolar disorder and placed on meds for her condition. He added that Jessica also suffered from bad seizures. She shouldn’t have been placed in solitary confinement, since they knew she could harm herself, US News reports.
The Hawaiian prison authorities said Jessica was punished with 30-days in solitary confinement for attacking another inmate. Eric Tanaka, the warden for the Women’s Community Correctional Center in Hawaii, disclosed that Jessica had once attempted to kill herself in the past. This time, she finally succeeded.
Based on information that Jessica had once attempted suicide, and the fact that she had bipolar disorder, her father lamented that:
“Why was she in a single cell by herself? If she tried this before, you’d think there’s a suicide policy. Something doesn’t sound right to me.”
Investigations Into the Suicide of Hawaii Prison Inmate Jessica Fortson
Preliminary investigations revealed that female Hawaiian inmate Jessica Fortson should have been placed under suicide watch. This high-risk inmate should have been closely monitored on account of her unpredictability. But, she was not.
Department officials responded with:
“We are confident that our practices are sound and we take suicide detection and prevention very seriously.”
But, authorities would not speak in length or detail about what their suicide policies are at this time. So, it’s unclear whether or not the policies had been adhered to before Jessica successfully committed suicide.
Jessica was sentenced to five years in the Hawaii state prison system for:
- Identity theft
- Credit card fraud
- Unauthorized use of confidential information
A parole hearing had been scheduled for January for the female Hawaiian inmate.
The Fortson family is still very furious over the circumstances that led to Jessica’s prison suicide death. But the Public Safety Department has revealed an inquest will be held to unravel the circumstances surrounding her suicide.
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Experts say that one of the best ways to support inmates with mental health issues is through prison visits. Actually seeing prison loved ones gives them the support they need to push forward.
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“Department officials told the newspaper that the staff does take suicidal tendencies into consideration during their assessments, but could not elaborate on the suicide policy since it is confidential.‘We are confident that our practices are sound and we take suicide detection and prevention very seriously,’ the department said in a statement.”