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Jamycheal Mitchell's Death is Sparking Discussions Over Mental Health Reform at the General Assembly

AP Photo / Steve Helber

The death of a mentally ill man at the Hampton Roads Regional Jail is prompting lawmakers to take action in Richmond.

The family of Jamycheal Mitchell was in Richmond this week to lobby lawmakers to take action. They don’t want his death behind bars at the Hampton Roads jail to be in vain. His aunt, Roxanne Adams, says now is the time to take action.

“We ask that real changes be implemented at Virginia jails to prevent another mentally ill young man like Jamycheal Mitchell from dying.”

Senator Barbara Favola is pushing a bill that would require mental health training for all correctional officers at Virginia jails. The idea is that they would be able to recognize the signs of mental illness — signs like Jamycheal Mitchell slowly starving while he was incarcerated for stealing $5 worth of snacks.

“Now is the opportunity for us to make our voices heard. It’s sometimes so unfortunate we have to suffer a horrific tragedy to move the policy agenda forward.”

Other bills under consideration include mental health screening for all inmates, requiring the the state to investigate deaths at jails and allowing police to take mentally ill suspects to seek help rather than locking them behind bars. 

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