WVEC: Lawmakers Push for Mental Health Reform in Virginia Jails Print

BY:  MIKE GOODING, WVEC

Created:  Thursday, January 19, 2017

RICHMOND, Va. (WVEC)-- There is a new push to reform Virginia's mental health and criminal justice systems. It comes a year and a half after inmate Jamycheal Mitchell died in the Hampton Roads Regional Jail.  Today lawmakers introduced ten bills that would shore up community-based mental health services.  Mitchell, who suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, was accused of stealing $5 worth of candy and soda from a convenience store. And for his crime he ended up in the Hampton Roads Regional Jail. And four months later, he was dead.  Mitchell lost 46 pounds over 101 days at the jail; He died  August 19th, 2015. A medical examiner concluded Mitchell died of a heart condition, accompanied by a large loss of weight.  Mitchell's family hopes something like this never happens again.

"Other inmates have told us that while held at the Hampton Roads Regional Jail, he was repeatedly mistreated or purposely ignored by jail personnel," said Mitchell's aunt, Roxanne Adams. "We ask that real changes be implemented to prevent another mentally ill young man like Jamycheal Mitchell from dying."

Today, lawmakers announced ten bills to comprehensively reform mental health in Virginia jails, to ensure that prisoners with mental health problems never fall through the cracks again.  "And we put our heads together just to try to figure out a way that we are going to prevent something like this from ever happening," said Del. Patrick Hope, (D-Arlington County).

Portsmouth Senator Louise Lucas said she's confident there is bipartisan support for change. "As a parent, any person who sits and listens to this horrific story has to be touched by it," she said. "You'd have to be a person devoid of compassion not to feel the grief for this family."

Investigations by state agencies failed to determine how the bipolar and schizophrenic Mitchell died while under what was supposed to be close supervision.  His family is suing for wrongful death, seeking $60 million dollars.  Jail officials have vigorously denied accusations of wrong-doing by employees.