Search Results for: virginia inspector general

Help Stop Seriously Mentally Ill Virginia Inmates From Being Locked In Solitary Confinement

(2-5-18) Want to reduce the suffering of individuals with serious mental illnesses held in Virginia jails and prisons?

Send an email or call state Senator Ryan T. McDougle  (R) – Senate District 4), at  (804) 698-7504 and urge him to support Senate Bill No. 801 currently in his Rules Committee.

Introduced by Virginia state Senator Barbara Favola, the legislation would require the Virginia Department of Corrections and the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to study and devise plans to reduce the use of solitary confinement for prisoners who suffer from serious mental illnesses.

The two state agencies would also be tasked to develop strategies ensuring “that prisoners with serious mental illness (SMIs) receive necessary and appropriate treatment delivered with a focus on the patient.”

Inmates are typically held in 80-square-foot cells for 23 hours a day, seven days a week. They are supposed to receive one hour a day of recreation five times a week, but those exercises are done inside a 96-square-foot, fenced area – basically a large cage. Inmates eat alone in their cells and, by design, have little, if any, interaction with others.

You can imagine how those conditions compound problems for someone with a serious mental illness. (Please share your personal stories on my Facebook page if you or a loved one has been held in such conditions.)

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Virginia Gov. Okays Tonight’s Execution of Prisoner With Severe Mental Illness Despite Pleas: But Claims To Be Mental Health Advocate

Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Terry McAuliffe speaks during a debate at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

(7-6-17) Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe should be embarrassed to show his face at a State of Mental Health Care: Challenges and Solutions forum being held by the Hill newspaper Tuesday, July 18, at The Newseum.

It is disingenuous to have McAuliffe on the same platform with mental health advocates after his decision this afternoon to not intervene in the planned execution of a 35 year-old man with a severe mental illness – despite pleas by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the daughter of one of the murder victims, numerous elected leaders and The Washington Post. 

Morva is scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection tonight at 9 p.m. even though an independent, court appointed psychiatrist said Morva has a severe delusional disorder that impaired his thinking when he fatally shot Montgomery County Deputy Sheriff Corporal Eric Sutphin and hospital security guard Derrick McFarland while escaping from jail in 2006.abcdefg

McAuliffe’s decision really should not surprise anyone who has paid attention to how his administration has treated individuals with mental illnesses.

Both he and Attorney General Mark Herring cried crocodile tears when the body of Jamycheal Mitchell, who died of a heart attack caused by starvation, was found in his Hampton Road Regional Jail Cell where he had been waiting for 101 days for admission into a state hospital for treatment of his schizophrenia.

Although he claimed concern, Gov. McAuliffe cleared one of his political appointees of mishandling an investigation into Mitchell’s death without ever bothering to speak to an employee who filed a whistleblower complaint about the state Inspector General’s investigation. Later, he found another plum state government job for that Inspector General after the state legislature refused to reappoint her. Meanwhile, it was Herring’s office that reportedly sat on an investigative report about Mitchell’s death until the state legislature adjourned and then, according to a Richmond Times Dispatch story, “intervened” when investigators attempted to find out what had happened to Mitchell while he was being held in jail after stealing $5.05 worth of snacks.  The handling of the Mitchell case was so badly handled that the U.S. Department of Justice decided to launch its own probe of the jail.

In refusing to grant clemency, McAuliffe and Herring both showed their same stripes. The governor announced:

“I personally oppose the death penalty; however, I took an oath to uphold the laws of this Commonwealth regardless of my personal views of those laws, as long as they are being fairly and justly applied. Thus, after extensive review and deliberation consistent with the process I have applied to previous requests for commutation, I have declined Mr. Morva’s petition. I have and will continue to pray for the families of the victims of these terrible crimes and for all of the people whose lives have been impacted.”

McAuliffe ignored the findings of a report by an independent psychiatrist appointed by a federal court after Morva’s trial and the only expert to have interviewed Morva and considered his complete psychiatric history. Attorney General Mark Herring (who represents Virginia on appeals) could have had Morva evaluated by another expert of the state’s own choosing, but Herring never bothered to go back to the federal court and ask for that evaluation. It was just a man’s life in the balance.

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Virginia Legislators Bell and Deeds Deserve Kudos, Governor McAuliffe, Attorney General Herring Deserve Criticism For Inmate’s Death


Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring at podium with Governor Terry McAuliffe standing behind him.  

(2-28-17) Republic Delegate Robert B. Bell from Albemarle and Democratic state Senator R. Creigh Deeds from Bath continue to demand better mental health services and protections in Virginia.

In the final hours of the legislative session Saturday night, they were able to get language passed that clarifies who is responsible for investigating suspicious inmate deaths in Virginia jails.

Their dogged, bipartisan determination should bring an end to the cowardly behavior shown by state officials surrounding the death of Jamycheal Mitchell, a 24 year-old African American whose lifeless body was found in the Hampton Roads Regional Jail in August 2015. Mitchell, who had been diagnosed with a serious mental illness, had been jailed for allegedly stealing $5.05 worth of snack food from a convenience store. A judge ordered him sent to a state hospital to be restored to competency, but his paperwork was tossed into a drawer and not found until six days after his death.

By that time, Mitchell had spent 101 days in jail. An autopsy showed he had died from a heart attack brought on by starvation. He lost 46 pounds even though he was supposedly under multiple daily checks by correctional officers and a daily health check by a nurse.

The horror of his death was compounded when state officials claimed they either did not have jurisdiction to fully investigate what happened or dodged doing a credible investigation. Instead, they happily accepted assurances from jail officials who declared themselves innocent of any wrongdoing. Not surprisingly, that internal jail probe has never been made public.

At least three state agencies and Virginia’s Governor Terry McAuliffe contributed to this debacle. They include Virginia Attorney General’s office, the Office of State Inspector General, and the disAbility Law Center of Virginia.

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The Jailing Of A 62 Year-Old Woman In Virginia With Schizophrenia Cited As A Success Story! Huh?


(12-2-16) A 62 year-old Virginia woman arrested for trespassing, who had schizophrenia, diabetes and was incontinent, was released three weeks after she was jailed thanks to cooperation between jail officials, a judge and local mental health officials.

Her release was cited by officials at the Hampton Roads Regional jail as an example of how the jail is taking steps to improve the way it treats inmates with mental illnesses, according to a story by Virginia Pilot Reporter Gary A. Harki. Last year, Jamycheal Mitchell  suffered a fatal heart attack in that same jail after literally starving for 101 days while reportedly under constant watch by correctional officers and a nurse. He’d been arrested for stealing $5.05 worth of snack food.

Had jail officials not cooperated with a judge and mental health workers, the 62 year-old woman would have spent four months waiting for trial, Linda Bryant, the jail’s assistant superintendent, was quoted telling Harki.

Okay, now read the first paragraph of this story again, 

The jail is citing this as an example of success because it was able to get a 62 year-old incontinent, mentally ill woman charged with misdemeanor trespassing released after spending ONLY THREE WEEKS in jail!

While I applaud the jail administration’s new attitude and spirit of collaboration, this is not a case that anyone should be celebrating and using as an example of exemplary service.

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Virginia Whistleblower Says Her Bosses Refused to Accommodate Her Anxiety Caused By Sexual Assault


(8-10-16) The office of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Monday cleared state Inspector General June W. Jennings and her top aide of any wrongdoing after a whistleblower complaint alleged that her office failed to thoroughly investigate the death of Jamycheal Mitchell, who died in a Virginia jail waiting for a hospital bed. McAuliffe’s chief of staff, Paul Reagan, dismissed the complaint without contacting or interviewing the three whistleblowers who filed it, including Cathy Hill, an employee in Jennings’ office. I thought it only fair to give Ms. Hill a forum to voice her concerns, especially after she recounted her personal struggle with Post Traumatic Stress to me caused by a sexual assault.)

My Story

By Cathy Hill

After approximately a 28 year-career in state service to persons with behavioral health and developmental disabilities, it saddens me to think I may not be able to complete my last few years with the Commonwealth of Virginia because the current leadership of the Office of the State Inspector General (OSIG) has actively undermined my ability to serve in good conscience.

The inadequate investigation into the death of Jamycheal Mitchell conducted by the OSIG Director of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, Priscilla Smith, and publicly supported by the State Inspector General, June Jennings, became the “last straw” for me and my colleagues, Ann White and William Thomas. The proclamation that the investigation was thorough and complete, coupled with other questionable practices, led the three of us to file a whistleblower complaint in July. After considerable discussion, we decided to share our thoughts and trust that our experiences and concerns provided in good faith, as established by law, would be investigated and a suitable judgment rendered so that the remedies necessary to correct the cited practices can occur.

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Another Mentally Ill Prisoner In Virginia Dies: State Officials Won’t Answer Questions About It


(6-17-16) The Richmond Times-Dispatch has learned that a prisoner died at Central State Hospital, a mental facility in Virginia, after being sent there from the Hampton Roads Regional Jail in Portsmouth. This happened between May 25th and June 8th.

This is the same jail where Jamycheal Mitchell, who had schizophrenia, was found dead last year from a heart attack caused by starvation. The National Alliance on Mental Illness, Virginia chapter of Mental Health America, the NAACP, the Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, and the ACLU have asked the U.S. Justice Department to investigate Mitchell’s death pursuant to the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act. In a strongly worded editorial, The Washington Post also has called for a federal probe.

The Justice Department has been reluctant to investigate individual deaths unless those fatalities reflected a pattern of civil rights abuses. If this new death resulted from how the inmate was treated while being detained at the Portsmouth jail, advocates could argue that there is a pattern of abuse of prisoners with mental illnesses inside the jail.

Unfortunately, Virginia mental health officials, the jail, and state bureaucrats all declined to answer basic questions about this second death when asked by investigative reporters Sarah Kleiner and K. Burnell Evans. Instead they claimed the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) prohibited them from talking about the death.  A HIPAA legal expert in Virginia was quoted in the article saying, “People take a more aggressive approach to restriction (under HIPAA) than they really ought to.”

The failure of state officials to answer questions should not shock anyone who has been following Virginia’s shameful actions in the Mitchell case.

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