Hampton Roads Regional Jail releases details on Jamycheal Mitchell’s death

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — The Hampton Roads Regional Jail has released more details about the death of Jamycheal Mitchell.

Mitchell, 24, died of starvation at the jail on Aug. 19, 2015. A judge ordered him to be transferred to a mental health facility, but he was never moved.

In May of this year, Mitchell’s family filed a $60 million wrongful death lawsuit.

10 On Your Side has been asking the jail to release more information or comment on Mitchell’s death for months. The jail has never made someone available to talk on camera. On Friday, HRRJ finally released a timeline of Mitchell’s time at the jail, leading up to and including the day of his death.

Jail officials said in a news release that they felt the timing was right to reveal the new details because they had just filed documents in court. The documents included a rebuttal to the claims of four inmates who allege that they feel unsafe and an opposition to the original lawsuit filed by the Mitchell family.

Jamycheal Mitchell
Jamycheal Mitchell

The jail mentions in their news release that there have been several investigations into Mitchell’s death.

At the time of his death, HRRJ says jail staff notified the Portsmouth Police Department, in accordance with jail policies and procedures, to have police to conduct an independent investigation. Police found no evidence of a crime, according to the jail.

The Office of the State Inspector General also performed an investigation. The review found numerous problems with the process of transferring inmates from the jail in Portsmouth to a hospital for mental health treatment. The report identified five major flaws in the system and made recommendations to fix each one.

The Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services investigated Mitchell’s death as well. In an eight-page letter to the State Inspector General, the Department of Behavioral Health and Development Services said it did not have the authority to make most of the recommended changes.

HRRJ says each investigation was performed with full cooperation of jail staff and access to jail records.

Jail officials say the scene of Mitchell’s death was preserved and photographed. The jail says the claim that Mitchell’s cell “was smeared with feces and his floor was soaked with urine is untrue.”

“The jail’s investigation revealed no breach of HRRJ policies or procedures, and no criminal action or negligence by HRRJ staff.”

The jail says soon after Mitchell’s death, several inmates alleged “improper conduct by jail officers.”

Four inmates, who claim to have witnessed acts of mistreatment directed toward Jamycheal Mitchell while he was in custody, wrote letters to the lawyer representing the Mitchell family in their lawsuit against the jail saying they now fear for their lives.

The allegations were “promptly investigated by HRRJ’s Internal Affairs Supervisor and were found to be unsubstantiated,” jail officials say. One of the inmates who claimed that he had knowledge about Mitchell’s death wasn’t even incarcerated at HRRJ until days after Mitchell’s death, the jail says.

On Friday, the jail filed the rebuttal in court. The document quotes phone conversations the inmates had with their relatives — those calls are legally allowed to be recorded — and says that credible evidence confirms that the inmates have not been subject to retaliation or harassment.

HRRJ says it contracts with an independent medical contractor to provide medical and mental health care to inmates. The jail claims that it had no control of when Mitchell was to be evaluated by Eastern State Hospital, where he would have gone for treatment had he been transferred.

The jail says Mitchell was weighed shortly after he arrived at HRRJ and “his weight, along with his other medical issues were followed by medical and mental healthcare providers.” Three weeks before his death, the jail says Mitchell was sent to the emergency room after jail officers noticed that his legs were swollen. He was sent to Maryview Hospital on July 30, 2015 to be evaluated. HRRJ says he returned to the jail after he was seen by hospital doctors. According to the jail, hospital records indicated that Mitchell was “well developed and well nourished,” weighing 145 pounds.

From the time of his release from Maryview until his death, the jail claims that Mitchell lost just one pound. The medical examiner recorded a weight of 144 pounds at the time of Mitchell’s death.

HRRJ says jail records confirm that Mitchell was offered 297 meals and received all but three meal trays, which he refused. Jail records also show that he was seen by medical and mental healthcare providers on about 70 different occasions while at HRRJ.

“We do not intend to try this case in the press, but we are confident that the care and treatment we provided to Mr. Mitchell, as well as the care and treatment we provide to all of our inmates, is appropriate and meets or excess both Virginia and National Standards.”

Read the jail’s full statement on Mitchell’s death here.

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