A 44-year-old Molokai woman who died at the Maui Community Correctional Center Monday night apparently committed suicide, making her the sixth prisoner to commit suicide at the facility in slightly more than five years.

MCCC staff were summoned to the woman’s cell at about 10:30 p.m. Monday, and medical and security workers immediately began administering aid that included performing CPR, according to a written statement provided by Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Toni Schwartz.

Emergency medical services workers responded to the jail, and pronounced the woman dead at 10:57 p.m., according to the statement. The official cause of death will be determined by an autopsy by the Medical Examiner’s Office.

Christin Johnson, coordinator for the Hawaii Correctional System Oversight Commission, told the commission Thursday investigations are underway by both the department and a law enforcement agency, but the death “appears to be a suicide.”

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the individual’s family and also with those who immediately responded to this tragedy,” Johnson said. “This woman was a native Hawaiian, I want to make a point of that because there is an overrepresentation of native Hawaiians within our jails and prisons.”

The apparent suicide of a 44-year old woman at Maui Community Correctional Center this week is the sixth reported inmate suicide at the facility in slightly more than five years. Yoohyun Jung/Civil Beat/2019

Johnson did not identify the woman, but staff identified her as Destiny Brown. Brown was in jail awaiting trial in connection with two felony charges alleging abuse of a family or household member on Oct. 10, and one misdemeanor terroristic threatening charge. Maui Circuit Court records confirmed Brown’s death.

State reports show that MCCC at times has struggled to hire adequate staff to provide mental health services to inmates there, and there have been five other suicides at the facility since 2017. Last spring state lawmakers agreed to pay $550,000 to settle a lawsuit filed after another woman killed herself at the jail in 2017.

Corrections officials at the jail noted in two state reports on other suicides at the Maui facility that MCCC in recent years has lacked resources for mental health care for the prisoners there.

One report filed in connection with the death of Lewellyn Foster Jr. on Dec. 9, 2020 explained that a clinical mortality review done on Foster’s death “shows lack of mental health staffing at MCCC as (a) critical issue, (and) identifying need for additional funding as key to addressing the problem.”

The report continued: “PSD to redouble efforts to secure the necessary funds for Health Care Office to be able to offer competitive salaries to qualified applicants.”

A similar report filed in connection with the suicide of William Robert Morrison, 52, at MCCC on July 8, 2021 explained that “corrective action” was planned to help provide additional mental health services to inmates. That included close coordination with state human resources staff to speed recruitment for mental health positions, according to the report.

That report dated July 27, 2021 also explained that a mental health section administrator position was “on orientation status” at the time, and the facility was trying to fill at least five other related positions including at least two that specifically involve mental health services.

The report also said federal funds had been requested to replace MCCC funding for mental health positions that had been cut by the Legislature.

When asked on Thursday about the status of those efforts to upgrade mental health services at MCCC, Schwartz replied in a written statement that “vacancies have been an issue for all facilities.”

“The Department of Public Safety utilizes telemedicine and staff from other facilities, and the department is currently in the process of hiring additional mental health professionals for that facility,” she wrote.

Civil Beat’s coverage of Maui County is supported in part by grants from the Nuestro Futuro Foundation and the Fred Baldwin Memorial Foundation.

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