Audit Finds Lapses in Case of Mentally Ill Inmate Who Died in Jail on a $5 Charge

© Courtesy of Jamycheal Mitchell’s family Jamycheal Mitchell, 24, died at the Hampton Roads Regional Jail on Aug. 19, 2015.
© Courtesy of Jamycheal Mitchell’s family Jamycheal Mitchell, 24, died at the Hampton Roads Regional Jail on Aug. 19, 2015.

After Jamycheal Mitchell was arrested for stealing $5 worth of snacks last April, a judge ordered the mentally ill Portsmouth, Va., man to be restored to competency at a state hospital so he could face trial. 

But for four months Mitchell wasted away in a cell at the Hampton Roads Regional Jail. By the time the 24-year-old died Aug. 19, he was gaunt, sickly and had shed at least 36 pounds.

A final report released Monday by a state agency details why Mitchell never got the help he needed: His case fell into a bureaucratic black hole.

The internal audit by Virginia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Development Services (DBHDS) found fundamental lapses by various state employees handling Mitchell’s case and a long wait for beds for mentally ill inmates at some state hospitals.

The breakdowns occurred throughout the system. Most critically, the audit concluded that there was no indication that the court initially sent the judge’s order to the state hospital that was supposed to care for Mitchell.

And when Eastern State Hospital finally received the order three months later, an overwhelmed staff member put it in a drawer and failed to add him to the wait list for a bed, according to the audit. The order was not discovered again until five days after Mitchell’s death, along with restoration orders for 10 to 12 other mentally ill inmates who were also not included on the wait list.

And even if Mitchell had been added to the wait list, there was a backlog of dozens of mentally ill inmates who needed beds at Eastern State Hospital so they could be restored to competency to stand trial.

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Source: The Washington Post | Justin Jouvenal