From [VA Pilot] Hampton Roads Regional Jail, its former medical provider and the state have agreed to pay $3 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of Jamycheal Mitchell, a 24-year-old Black inmate with mental health problems whose death in 2015 sparked outrage.
The settlement agreement, part of which required Gov. Ralph S. Northam’s approval, has been in the works for months but was finalized this week, according to court documents. In that time, the U.S. Justice Department released a scathing report that concluded the jail’s treatment of inmates amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. One of the correctional officers named in the suit also was indicted on felony assault charges. The federal investigation of Hampton Roads Regional Jail — where several inmates have died — determined the jail is violating prisoners' rights by failing to provide adequate medical care. It described the jail as lacking enough medical staff to treat a high number of physically sick and mentally ill inmates, many of whom are locked up repeatedly for minor offenses. [MORE]
His family filed its lawsuit the following year, claiming Mitchell was beaten, starved and treated “like a circus animal” in the months leading up to his death. The suit said Mitchell was ultimately left to die in his cell as fellow inmates pleaded with guards to get him help.
Still, the settlement came with no admission of wrongdoing by the jail, NaphCare or others named in the lawsuit — which initially sought $60 million in damages.
The facts in this case are fantastic and egregious. The uncivilized authoritarians have not disputed the facts so BW has provided the factual part of Mitchells’ complaint. It is long but worth reading, parental guidance is suggested:
On August 19, 2015, 24-year-old Jamycheal M. Mitchell was pronounced dead by EMS after being found not breathing and without a pulse while a detainee at the HRRJ.
Approximately four months earlier, in April 2015, Mitchell was arrested for allegedly stealing $5 in snacks from a 7-Eleven.
When he was in or about the fourth grade, Mitchell was diagnosed as mildly intellectually disabled (upon information and belief, Mitchell was characterized in school records as mildly "mentally retarded"). Mitchell had also long suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. A mental health screening ordered by the Portsmouth General District Court in 2015 noted that "Mr. Mitchell's thought processes were so confused that only snippets of his sentences could be understood, the rest were mumbled statements that made no rational sense." At the urging of a mental health expert, the General District Court ordered that Mitchell be treated at Eastern State Hospital, a state mental hospital, to "restore his competency." However, according to Eastern State Hospital and to a state investigation conducted after Mitchell's death, Defendant Lenna Jo Davis, the Portsmouth General District Court Clerk, and, implicated by circumstances, her employee, Defendant Kelly N. Boyd, did not forward the restoration order to Eastern State Hospital until more than two months after it was issued. When Eastern State Hospital finally received it, the order was never acted upon because Defendant Gail Hart, an Eastern State Hospital admissions employee, simply shoved the order in a drawer; she never entered Mitchell's name into the log used to manage incoming patients to Eastern State Hospital. An investigative report by the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health & Development Services ("DBHDS") found that Hart's drawer contained a "significant number of [competency restoration orders] that had not been entered." By statute, it was the specific duty of Defendant Debra K. Ferguson, the Commissioner of DBHDS, to comply with the General District Court's restoration of competency order regarding Mitchell. During the relevant period, Defendant Ferguson regularly disregarded competency restoration orders issued by judges throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia.
While housed at the HRRJ, Mitchell was repeatedly mistreated and/or purposefully ignored by Jail personnel. The Correctional Officer Defendants sealed Mitchell in his cell by regularly locking shut the "chuck hole" to Mitchell's cell door. During the last months of his confinement, Mitchell was confined in a two-inmate cell that he occupied by himself. The cell door had a Plexiglas window. When the cell door and the chuck hole were closed, the cell was completely sealed, excepting a small gap between the cell door and the door jam. Mitchell and other inmates spoke to each other through the small gaps. Other detainees and inmates were permitted at times to stand in, or pass through, the central pod area in front of Mitchell's cell. However, Mitchell was almost never permitted to leave his cell.
Further, the Correctional Officer Defendants regularly denied Mitchell food. One inmate estimates that Mitchell would sometimes receive only one meal a day or one meal over several days. Mitchell would suffer dramatic, significant weight loss that was never adequately addressed by Defendants HRRJ/HRRJA or their employees, or by HRRJ/HRRJA's medical contractor, Defendant NaphCare/its employees. Despite inconsistencies and incompleteness across medical records and public statements made by Jail officials as to Mitchell's weight, it appears Mitchell lost approximately 40 pounds, and may have lost closer to 50 pounds. What is clear is that his weight ultimately fell to 144 lbs on his 6' 1" plus frame. At a court hearing held approximately three weeks before his death, his family was shocked to see how gaunt Mitchell had become. Mitchell's aunt, Roxanne Adams, Administrator of Mitchell's Estate and Plaintiff in this action, made well over 40 calls to Jail officials seeking help for her nephew. HRRJ officials told Adams that Mitchell's weight loss was due to his failure to eat; however, Jail detainees/inmates have stated that Mitchell ate ravenously when he was provided food. Jail officials told Adams that they would follow up on her concerns, but they never did.
The Correctional Officer Defendants also turned off the water in Mitchell's cell. As a consequence of no toilet water and a sealed door, Mitchell was encapsulated in a cell that reeked from the stench of unflushed urine and feces. Indicative of the depths of his mental illness, and/or out of an effort by him to simply be noticed and helped, Mitchell smeared feces on the Plexiglas window to his cell.
In the air-conditioned Jail that inmates regularly describe as "cold," for months, the Correctional Officer Defendants denied Mitchell clothing, a mattress, a sheet, and blankets (he reportedly received a bare mattress only days before his death). Mitchell's "bed" was a metal sheet. Day after day, he stood cold and naked at the doorway of his cell. He did not have any shoes to insulate his feet from the frigid cement floor. During a period of lucidity, he explained to another detainee that he stood at the doorway because he felt that there was some warmth provided by the overhead light.
Although psychotropic medications (medications capable of affecting the mind, emotions, and behavior) were prescribed for Mitchell and important for the maintenance of his mental competency, Mitchell reportedly received virtually no psychotropic medication at the Jail, and, about a month before his death, his medication was discontinued altogether. Mitchell also was prescribed medication to treat his severe edema, but also did not receive it as ordered. Jail personnel have contended in the press that Mitchell "refused" to take his medications and also refused other treatments, but those statements suggest an informed and conscious decision, which Mitchell was incapable of making. Further, other inmates refute the contentions of Jail personnel that Mitchell was offered medication. The inmates assert that at "pill pass" NaphCare nurses regularly walked past Mitchell's cell without offering any medications. The Correctional Officer Defendants oftentimes encouraged NaphCare nurses to bypass Mitchell, asserting to "not bother with" Mitchell as "he was crazy," or words to that effect. Despite knowing that Mitchell was, among other things, significantly mentally impaired, not receiving his medications or other medical treatments, losing significant amounts of weight, physically deteriorating, and "smearing" feces/urine - thereby creating a highly infectious environment - Defendants NaphCare; Edwards, LCSW; Kolongo, MD; Ngwa, NP; Ray, NP-Psych; Thomas, RN, HSA; Rivers, LPN; Nicholson, MA; Doris Murphy, MSW; and Pam Johnson, RN; did not adequately monitor, treat, and/or attempt to treat, Mitchell, did not have adequate systems in place to allow Mitchell proper medical/mental health care, and did not follow up with DBHDS regarding the failure to transfer Mitchell to Eastern State Hospital per court order.
Mitchell was also physically and verbally abused by the Correctional Officer Defendants. At times, Mitchell was forced to the ground, dragged, sprayed with mace, stood upon, punched and kicked by Correctional Officer Defendants. Inmates state that the Correctional Officer Defendants regularly mocked and laughed at Mitchell. In the words of one inmate, certain Correctional Officer Defendants "treated [Mitchell] like a circus animal." Many times following the abuse, Mitchell could be heard crying from his cell.
Other detainees were deeply disturbed by Mitchell's horrid circumstances and the mistreatment he received, and sought to intervene on his behalf. For instance, one detainee told Correctional Officer Defendants, among other things, "this man shouldn't be here. He needs help." However, the pleas of Mitchell's fellow inmates went unheeded; Correctional Officer Defendants were deliberately indifferent to Mitchell's circumstances, saying, among other things, "as long as he does not die on my watch," they did not care about his circumstances.
In the later part of his detention, Mitchell's feet and legs became very swollen. One detainee said that one of Mitchell's feet and legs was so swollen that it looked as it if he was wearing a large cast. After a considerable period of inadequate attention in-house, Defendant NaphCare finally sent Mitchell to Bon Secours Maryview Medical Center ("Maryview Hospital") for treatment. During his brief ED stay, Mitchell's condition was assessed - lab tests were performed and he was diagnosed as suffering from "Bilateral lower extremity edema," "hypoalbuminemia," and "elevated transaminase level" - but the cause of his conditions was not ascertained nor was he provided any treatment. Mitchell was given a consultation to see a GI doctor. However, Jail medical records reveal that upon Mitchell's return to the Jail, Defendants NaphCare; Kolongo, MD; Ngwa, NP; Pam Johnson, RN; and other NaphCare employees and/or agents, provided no follow up care, including no GI consult, for the remaining 19 days of Mitchell's confinement before his death, nor did they provide proper care or refer Mitchell to an ED again when his medical condition considerably worsened.
Defendants NaphCare; Kolongo, MD; Edwards, LCSW; Ray, NP-Psych; Ngwa, NP; Thomas, RN, HSA; Rivers, LPN; Nicholson, MA; Doris Murphy, MSW; and Pam Johnson, RN; and, upon information and belief, Defendants HRRJA/HRRJ, Simons, and Eugene Taylor, among other HRRJ and NaphCare employees, were well aware that Mitchell was mentally decompensating and physically deteriorating, but did not adequately address such. Indeed, an evaluation for a temporary detention order (TDO) was requested by Defendant Edwards, LCSW, on July 31, 2015. A TDO was not necessary, and likely was contrary to Virginia law in this circumstance, where a CRO had been issued by the Court; in any event, the TDO evaluation was not completed. However, despite her awareness of Mitchell's mental and physical decline, and her acknowledgement with the TDO evaluation request that Mitchell was imminently in danger at HRRJ and needed to be removed, Defendant Edwards, LCSW, failed to follow up when no TDO evaluation had been conducted as of August 3, 2015 and Mitchell otherwise had not been removed from HRRJ (and no other NaphCare or HRRJ/HRRJA employees followed up either). Mitchell thus remained largely abandoned in his cell at HRRJ until his death on August 19, 2015.
Prior to his death, Mitchell, who inmates report was always whistling and making other noises between the crack between his door and door jam, became quiet. For as many as four days before his death, Mitchell uncharacteristically laid slumped on the rack in his cell. When other detainees/inmates asked him what was wrong he moaned that he was feeling very bad and needed medical help. The detainees/inmates relayed that information to Correctional Officer Defendants and implored them to help Mitchell, but the "COs" ignored the requests, or otherwise did not obtain medical help for Mitchell. At one point, inmate witnesses report that Mitchell's cell door was opened and Mitchell stepped out of his cell and asked for medical care, but Correctional Officer Defendants returned Mitchell to his cell and no medical care was provided to Mitchell.
On August 19, 2015, fellow Jail detainees discovered Mitchell unresponsive in his Jail cell. Upon information and belief, a correctional officer employee then attempted to clean Mitchell's cell. Upon information and belief, in response, inmates yelled that the correctional officer was "tampering with a crime scene." Responding NaphCare providers recorded that, upon their arrival, Mitchell was not breathing and had no pulse. Upon information and belief, when these providers attempted to use the defibrillator, it was not working. EMS was called to the scene and pronounced Mitchell dead. In the Death Scene Investigation Report, despite, upon information and belief, the above attempted cleaning efforts, investigators from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner described Mitchell's cell as having the stench of a "foul odor." The toilet in the cell was full of urine and feces. Investigators found puddles of urine on the floor of Mitchell's cell.
An autopsy performed by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner listed the cause of Mitchell's death as "Probable cardiac arrhythmia accompanying wasting syndrome of unknown etiology." Assistant Chief Medical Examiner Wendy M. Gunther, M.D., described Mitchell as "nearly cachectic," meaning the loss of body mass that cannot be reversed nutritionally.
Upon viewing his body, Mitchell's family was stunned. Their beloved Jamycheal, despite his struggles with mental illness, had been a vibrant young man who loved music and always made people laugh. In his place was a withered figure the family could hardly recognize. [MORE]