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$100,000 Settlement for Suicide of Mentally Ill Prisoner Repeatedly Raped

by Douglas Ankney

On February 27, 2019, the State of Hawaii and a prison medical contractor agreed to pay $100,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by Helen Coma, the mother of 32-year-old Jonathan Ibana. 

Ibana, incarcerated at the Halawa Correctional Facility (HCF), killed himself on March 11, 2013 – six days after he reported being raped by his cellmate. He covered the window of his cell with toilet paper marked with the words “using toilet.” Guards later discovered that he had used his bed sheet to hang himself.

Ibana, who had a history of suicide attempts, suffered from an intellectual disability, bipolar disorder, severe depression and hallucinations, and was diagnosed as schizophrenic. Because he had attempted suicide at age 16, he was identified as a suicide risk when he was sent to prison in 2001. He claimed “spirits” were going to kill him by ramming his head against the wall. Over the next few years he was observed tying elastic around his neck and banging his head against a wall. He repeatedly warned he was going to kill himself. 

By June 2010, Ibana had attempted suicide 15 times. He also was raped by other prisoners twice in 2007, once in 2008, once in 2012 and again in March 2013 – shortly before he took his own life. Instead of being placed on suicide watch after the last sexual assault, Ibana was moved to an isolation cell without proper monitoring, against the prison’s own policies. 

Coma filed her wrongful death suit in state court, alleging, among other claims, negligence by staff at HCF. Staff members knew Ibana had a history of being targeted and raped by other prisoners; however, instead of protecting him or attempting to provide a safe environment, they forced him to share a cell with a known violent sexual predator. 

The suit also claimed medical staff were negligent in failing to monitor Ibana and provide him with proper medical care. It was known that he was mentally ill and had a history of suicide attempts, yet after he was raped he was neither monitored nor placed on suicide watch.

In addition to a $74,900 settlement paid by the state to resolve the lawsuit, Global Medical Staffing agreed to pay $25,100. Global was the private contractor hired to provide medical care to prisoners at HCF. Combined with the state’s payment, the total settlement was $100,000. Coma was represented by the Law Offices of Joseph P.H. Ahuna, Jr. See: Coma v. State of Hawaii, Circuit Court (HI), Case No. 1CC151000437.

Hawaii lawmakers are considering establishing a commission to oversee the state’s jails and prisons due to ongoing suicides and insufficient suicide prevention policies. More than two dozen prisoners have killed themselves in Hawaii correctional facilities since 2010. 


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Related legal case

Coma v. State of Hawaii