HONOLULU — The father of a Hawaii inmate who took her own life is asking why the prison she was held at had her in solitary confinement instead of suicide watch before her death.

Jessica Fortson, 30, was found unconscious in a cell by a corrections officer on July 11 and was declared dead within an hour, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported (http://bit.ly/2wAzBxq). She had been serving a five-year prison sentence for fraudulent use of a credit card, identity theft and unauthorized possession of confidential information.

Fortson was scheduled to have her next parole hearing in January, according to the Public Safety Department.

The mother of two was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and had been taking medications for it, said her father, Richard Fortson. He claims the Women’s Community Correctional Center Warden Eric Tanaka told him that his daughter had previously attempted suicide.

“I said, ‘Why was she in a single cell by herself?'” said Richard Fortson, who said his daughter also suffered from bad seizures. “What is the policy? If she tried this before, you’d think there’s a suicide policy… Something doesn’t sound right to me.”

There is an ongoing internal investigation into Fortson’s death, said Public Safety Department Spokeswoman Toni Schwartz.

Before her death, Jessica Fortson had been in placed solitary conferment for 30 days for assaulting another inmate, public safety officials said. She was reviewed by medical staff before she was cleared to serve the disciplinary sanction, they said.

She was not under suicide watch at the time of her death.

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.


Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com

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