Search Results for: virginia inspector general

Republicans Move To Fire Virginia Inspector General Who Failed To Answer Basic Questions About How A Psychotic Inmate Starved To Death In Jail

Photo by Bob Brown, Richmond Times Dispatch. Neither June Jennings or Priscilla Smith mentioned personal ties to legislators to hospital under investigation in inmate's death

Photo by Bob Brown, Richmond Times Dispatch. Neither June Jennings or Priscilla Smith mentioned personal ties to legislators to hospital under investigation in inmate’s death

(2-8-17) House Republicans in Virginia today moved to fire the state’s sitting Inspector General for issuing a vanilla investigative report about the death of Jamycheal Mitchell that avoided answering tough questions. Mitchell was the 24 year-old African American with schizophrenia who was found dead in a Hampton Roads Regional jail cell while waiting 101 days for a bed in a state hospital. An autopsy showed he had died because of a heart attack caused by starvation. Mitchell had been arrested for allegedly stealing $5.05 worth of snacks from a 7-11 store.

Along with other mental health advocates, I sharply criticized State Inspector General June W. Jennings for issuing a report that failed to explain how a prisoner could starve to death while under near constant surveillance by correctional officers and being checked daily by a nurse hired to provide health care at the jail. Instead of questioning jail officials thoroughly and digging out details about what transpired, Jennings explained that she’d decided to not investigate who might have been responsible, nor “every element of prior investigations.”  Instead, her report focused on “system errors”rather than “human ones.” The result was a largely useless document that surely pleased jail officials (who already had investigated themselves and found no wrongdoing) and appeared to have been written to help protect the state from being found liable in a civil lawsuit.

After Jennings issued her report, a whistleblower in her office and two other contract employees alleged in a complaint to the state Attorney General, that IG investigators hadn’t even bothered to go to the jail when Mitchell first died, but instead did a “desk review,” which meant they called jail officials and asked them to fax them copies of their official reports. The whistleblowers also charged that Jennings and her staff intentionally mislead me when I filed a Freedom of Information request.

Hours after that complaint was filed, a spokesman for Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe announced that the complaint was being rejected because the governor had full confidence in Jennings. The whistleblowers noted that the governor’s office took this action without bothering to interview any of them. In the midst of that dust-up, a newspaper reported that Jennings and her top assistant, Patricia Smith, had personal ties to the state hospital that misplaced Mitchell’s paperwork, causing him to remain in jail rather than be transferred. Those connections raised questions about whether either Jennings or Smith could be objective, but the governor stuck with her.

And after today’s vote, Governor Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, doubled or I should write, tripled down. In an angry statement, he defended Jennings while accusing Republicans of game playing. Click to continue…

Virginia Inspector General Accused By Whistleblowers Of Misleading Me And Rubber Stamping Reports About Inmate Deaths

osig_color_logo_es(7-21-16) Did a Virginia official, whose job is to protect the public from dishonest government officials, lie to me?

A whistleblower complaint alleges that Virginia Inspector General June Jennings   provided me with false and misleading information. It also accuses Jennings and her assistant, Priscilla Smith, who is responsible for monitoring behavioral health agencies, of misleading state Sen. Creigh Deeds and other elected officials during testimony, and of violating HIPAA regulations when handling confidential medical information inside the Office of State Inspector General (OSIG).

Even more damning, the complaint claims the OSIG has failed to thoroughly investigate the deaths of prisoners with mental illnesses in Virginia’s jails and prisons, choosing instead to rubber stamp reports submitted to them by jailers and mental health officials.

The accusations are being levied by Cathy Hill, an OSIG employee who is seeking whistleblower protection, and two OSIG consultants, William Thomas and Ann White. In their complaint, which was filed yesterday, they asked Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring to launch a criminal investigation of the OSIG office to determine if Jennings and Smith have violated state and federal laws, writing:

It is our belief that their actions violate both Virginia and federal law, and undermine public trust and the mission of the OSIG. Our concerns have grown to the degree that we feel we can no longer in good faith remain silent. 

An email request for a reaction and comment by Jennings and Smith – that I sent yesterday – has gone unanswered.

Was I told a lie?

The complaint alleges that Jennings and an unnamed OSIG public relations officer hid information from me when I filed a Freedom of Information Act request.

But before I get to that accusation, let’s examine a much more troubling charge.

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Sheriff Complains About Lack Of State Hospital Beds In Virginia: Part Of National Bed Crisis

Sheriffs angry about lack of hospital beds. (WDBJ)

(4-2-21) An influential Virginia Sheriff lashed out at the state’s behavioral health department and the General Assembly during a press conference this week stating that both needed to “stop passing the buck and step up to develop and implement solutions to address the constant bed shortages and other deficiencies in the state response to mental health crises.”

Flanked by other sheriffs and police chiefs, Montgomery County Sheriff Hank Partin warned: “Folks that are in crisis, that need help – they aren’t receiving help.”

It is not uncommon, the sheriff said, for his officers to spend hours driving across the state searching for an available state hospital bed only to arrive and be told that none is available.

The officers’ complaints about a lack of state hospital beds for Virginians, who are being held under Temporary Detention Orders (TDOs), is hardly new.

A decade ago, then Inspector General G. Douglas Bevelacqua warned that there were not enough crisis care beds available at state psychiatric hospitals or at local hospitals. During a 90-day period, he discovered emergency rooms had turned away 200 individuals who had met involuntary commitment criteria and were judged dangerous. He called it “streeting” – simply kicking ill individuals to the streets.

In November 2013, state Sen. Creigh Deeds took his son, Gus, to a mental health facility but was told no local hospital bed could be found within the necessary time period for a TDO. Deeds and his son were sent home where Gus attacked his father with a knife, slashing his face, before ending his own life.

In 2015, Jamycheal Mitchell, age 24, died from “wasting away” syndrome in a Hampton Roads Regional jail after waiting 101 days for a state hospital bed. He suffered a heart attack after literally starving to death.

Virginia is not the only state that doesn’t have enough crisis care beds. Back in a 2005 study, the Treatment Advocacy Center warned:

“The consequences of the severe shortage of public psychiatric beds include increased homelessness; the incarceration of mentally ill individuals in jails and prisons; emergency rooms being overrun with patients waiting for a psychiatric bed; and an increase in violent behavior, including homicides, in communities across the nation.”

Fifteen experts cited in that report recommended states have “50 (range 40 to 60) public psychiatric beds per 100,000 population for hospitalization for individuals with serious psychiatric disorders.” At that time, Virginia had less than half that recommended number – 22.5 beds.

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Virginia Officials Should Be Ashamed That Feds Had To Investigate How Inmate Starved To Death In Jail – Not Crowing About Consent Decree


Church bulletin at Jamycheal Mitchell’s funeral

(8-6-20) The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has proposed a consent decree with the Hampton Roads Regional Jail Authority, hopefully closing one of Virginia’s most egregious chapters involving abuse of a prisoner with a serious mental illnesses. If approved by a judge, the jail will be required to implement numerous reforms, including better care for its mentally ill inmates, more staffing, and adherence to the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The federal government stepped in because jail and state officials covered-up and did their best to ignore the August 2015 death of Jamycheal Mitchell, who suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

The question we should be asking is whether our elected leaders have learned anything and taken steps to avoid future bureaucratic blundering if a death happens in a jail.

An autopsy concluded that Mitchell had died from a heart attack caused by “wasting syndrome,” which meant he’d starved himself to the point that his heart failed. Mitchell weighed 190 pounds when he was arrested for allegedly stealing $5 worth of snacks from a convenience store. The autopsy listed his weight at death as 144 pounds. Mitchell was waiting in the jail for 101 days for a state hospital bed to become available. After his death, hospital officials admitted that his transfer paperwork had been tossed in a drawer and forgotten. Guards were supposed to eyeball Mitchell each half-hour, and once a day he was supposed to be checked by a nurse employed by a for-profit company called Naph Care. There were no notations in his medical records that showed anyone had noticed his 46-pound weight loss.

It is surprising that  Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring was credited in a Virginian-Pilot story this morning for requesting the Justice Department get involved.

Mark Herring

It was the the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Virginia, the ACLU of Virginia, the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Hampton-Newport News, Mental Health America of Virginia, the Portsmouth Branch of the NAACP, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and The Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law which called on June 6, 2016 for the Justice Department to investigate Mitchell’s death because state officials, including Herring, had done such a lousy job. I also wrote in the Washington Post about the need for a federal investigation. Herring didn’t ask for a federal probe until September 3, months after the advocates.

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$3 Million Settlement: Possible Presidential Candidate Terry McAuliffe and Current Virginia Attorney General Both Deserve Criticism For Their Handling Of Horrific Inmate Death

Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring dropped the ball in handling of inmate’s horrific death

(Thank you for your support. My blog reached an average of 191,000 readers nationally last month.)

(2-4-19) Richmond Virginia attorney Mark J. Krudys has accomplished what local, state and federal officials declined to do.

He has made the Hampton Roads Regional Jail, its former in-house health care provider, and the state accountable for the horrific death of Jamycheal Mitchell, the 24-year-old Virginian who suffered a heart attack in 2015 after being starved while waiting 101 days in jail to be sent to a state mental hospital. Mitchell had a serious mental illness and was jailed after allegedly stealing $5.05 of snacks from a convenience store.

Krudys agreed to settle the wrongful death suit that he’d filed on behalf of the Mitchell family for $3 million. None of those involved admitted wrongdoing but the size of the settlement in conservative Virginia speaks volumes.

Sadly,  two prominent Virginia politicians have escaped unscathed.

Former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, who reportedly is considering a run for president, and Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, who is running for governor in 2021, should be publicly pillared.

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Justice Dept. Slams Virginia Jail. “Deliberate Indifference” Led To Numerous Deaths But No One Punished

Starved To Death In Jail

(12-20-18) The U.S. Department of Justice has said there is reasonable evidence to conclude that officials at the Hampton Roads Regional Jail in Virginia are violating the constitutional rights of prisoners with mental illnesses. The report refers to  “deliberate indifference to prisoners’ constitutional rights to adequate medical care” and a “deliberate indifference to prisoner health and safety.”

In a 43-page investigative report released late last night, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia disclosed information about deaths at the jail not previously widely known.

Perhaps the saddest findings are frequent references to the “indifference” jail officials and medical workers showed toward mentally ill prisoners. It noted the jail “does not take prisoner grievances about lack of access to medical care seriously, resulting in significant harm to prisoners, even death.”

The federal government launched its investigation of the Portsmouth regional jail at the request of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Mental Health America, the NAACP, the ACLU, and the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law after widespread publicity swirling around the death of Jamycheal Mitchell and Virginia state officials’ bungling of state investigations.

Mitchell, a 24 year-old African American with a diagnosed mental illness, was found dead in his cell four months after he was arrested for allegedly stealing $5.05 in candy and a soda from a convenience store. Mitchell died from a heart attack that a Virginia medical examiner said was caused by “wasting away” syndrome (starvation.) He had lost 40 pounds during the 100 days he was jailed in solitary confinement awaiting transfer to a state mental hospital. In a civil suit filed by his family, attorneys claimed correctional officers denied Mitchell food as punishment, kicked, beat, and pepper sprayed him.

The Justice Department noted that jail officials failed to improve medical services even after Mitchell’s highly publicized death. A second inmate died a year later after his repeated pleas for medical help were ignored.

Although the Justice Department concluded there is reasonable evidence to suggest the jail was and continues to violate prisoners’ 8th and 14th Constitutional rights and the Americans with Disability Act, no official was cited for discipline and no criminal charges apparently will be filed against any individuals.

The Hampton Road Jail holds more prisoners with mental illnesses in Virginia than most jails. The report cited 25% as compared to 9.55 percent in other jails. It also had the second highest number of military veterans, of which, 47% had a mental illness.

The report disclosed other deaths inside the jail that had not been publicized, including these examples:

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