Settlement reached in Hampton Roads Regional Jail death lawsuit

The Hampton Roads Regional Jail the state and the jail’s former medical provider have agreed to a $3 million settlement of a federal lawsuit filed by the family of an inmate with mental health problems who died in the jail.

The agreement with Jamycheal Mitchell’s family was finalized last week.

The settlement includes no admission of wrongdoing by Hampton Roads Regional Jail, medical provider NaphCare or other defendants.

Part of the settlement agreement, which had been worked on for months, required Gov. Ralph Northam’s approval. The court documents don’t describe how much money each defendant would have to pay. A federal judge still must approve the agreement.

Mitchell, 24, had bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. He was jailed in 2015 on charges he stole about $5 in snacks from a Portsmouth convenience store. Mitchell was ordered to a state mental hospital, but his paperwork was stuffed in a hospital employee’s desk drawer and he was never sent there. He died about four months later in the jail of heart failure accompanied by severe weight loss, a medical examiner said.

Mitchell’s family filed its lawsuit in 2016, claiming Mitchell was beaten, starved and treated “like a circus animal” leading up to his death. The family sought $60 million in damages.

Mitchell’s death led the state Board of Corrections to scrutinize all recent jail deaths.

A report last month from a 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.

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John Mangalonzo (john@localvoicemedia.com) is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.