Keeping Virginia Inmate With Paranoid Schizophrenia Locked Up “An Injustice” NAMI Virginia Declares

Christopher Sharikas with his parents, Sana and James, who are seeking his release to a mental hospital

(8-25-23) The Virginia state chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness has joined the campaign to move Christopher Sharikas, an longly-held inmate with paranoid sczhophrenia, from prison into a mental facility.

NAMI Virginia Executive Director Kathy Harkey explained in a letter to Sharikas’ pro bono attorney Jonathan P. Sheldon:

NAMI Virginia believes that Christopher Sharikas should be receiving mental health services in a facility that is structured to provide them, and that his continued incarceration is an injustice to Sharikas, his family, and his community.

Lisa Dailey, executive director of the Treatment Advocacy Center, also has supported Sharikas’ parents, James and Sana Campbell, in seeing their son moved into a mental health center.

In a recent blog, I explained why Sharikas’ incarceration is especially egregious.

Sharikas, who has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, has been imprisoned in Virginia for 26 years after being convicted of felonies that carried a state recommended maximum sentence of eleven years.  Based on state guidelines, that’s more than twice as long as someone without a mental illness would serve.

But there is more to this injustice – information that I only recently learned that is simply outrageous.

When Sharikas appeared before the Virginia Parole Board in December 2020, he was denied release after the Virginia Department of Corrections said Sharikas had assaulted prison guards nine years earlier. What the parole board was NOT told is that a video of that alleged incident exonerated Sharikas. It proved that he had not attacked officers.

When challenged about this irrefutable evidence, a Department of Corrections official told Sharikas and his family that video evidence didn’t matter. Guards at the prison had sworn that he’d attacked them. That was sufficient for the department. Put simply, it backed its officers regardless of contrary evidence.

James Campbell and Sana have created a Go Fund Me page for their son to help publicize his plight.

Kathy Harkey, NAMI Virginia Executive Director

Thank you Kathy and NAMI Virginia for speaking out about this injustice.

About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.