- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 20, 2019

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Prosecutors released a report Wednesday on the 2015 death of a mentally ill man who had been jailed for stealing $5 in snacks, saying their investigation is still missing information that could help determine if anyone can be criminally charged in the case.

Jamycheal Mitchell, 24, had bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

After he was jailed in Virginia on charges he stole a Snickers bar, Mountain Dew and Zebra Cake from a convenience store, Mitchell was ordered to a state mental hospital. His paperwork was stuffed in a hospital employee’s desk drawer and he was never sent there.

Mitchell died four months later at the Hampton Roads Regional Jail of heart failure accompanied by severe weight loss, a state medical examiner determined.

The lengthy report issued by Portsmouth Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Morales said the jail’s former medical provider, NaphCare Inc., made 14 witnesses available for interviews, but refused to produce other important witnesses despite repeated requests from prosecutors.

“Our efforts in obtaining more information from the remaining eight witnesses, including the most vital witness employed by NaphCare, have been met with resistance and obstacles,” the report states.

“In the interest of making what happened to Jamycheal available to the public and seeking change in his memory to ensure this never happens again, this report, along with its recommendations, must serve as a strong stance against systemic disregard for the most vulnerable among us.”

A spokesperson for NaphCare Inc. did not immediately return a call seeking comment on the report. An attorney for the company did not immediately respond to a message left at his office and an email.

David Hackworth, superintendent of the jail, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

The report says Mitchell was likely deteriorating mentally and physically before he was taken into custody. It also says the actions and inactions of correctional officers and medical staff “potentially contributed to but likely did not directly cause” Mitchell’s weight loss or death.

The report alleges that NaphCare employees seemed unwilling to try to overcome Mitchell’s “mildly resistive nature” and give him the treatment and attention he needed.

For example, Mitchell was repeatedly allowed to refuse his essential mental health medication and other medical treatments.

The report said Mitchell then “fell into a vicious cycle.” He regularly refused medication and treatments due to his mental illness, then his mental state deteriorated because he wasn’t taking his medication.

The report said NaphCare followed its usual policies and procedures in place for patients who understand them. But, the report said, Mitchell probably did not understand the consequences of refusing treatment.

Last month, the state, the jail and NaphCare agreed to a $3 million settlement of a federal lawsuit filed by Mitchell’s family that alleged he was beaten, starved and treated “like a circus animal.”

The settlement includes no admission of wrongdoing. A federal judge must still approve the agreement.

Mitchell’s death prompted the Virginia Board of Corrections to scrutinize all recent jail deaths. A report issued in December by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia said that the Hampton Roads Regional Jail is violating prisoners’ rights by failing to provide adequate medical care.

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