The Washington Post ran a story recently about a man named Jamycheal Mitchell. He was incarcerated for stealing $5.05 worth of snacks from a 7-11 in Virginia. Because he suffered from schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder, a judge ordered that Jamycheal be placed in a state run psychiatric hospital – “but like an increasing number of the mentally ill, he sat in jail for months as he waited for a bed to open.” He was dead within 4 months.
This is, sadly, a more common occurrence than you might think. Throughout the country, the mentally ill and incapacitated often wait weeks, even months, in jails – jails which are not equipped to offer the psychiatric help that the inmates need – while the state tries to determine if they are fit to stand trial. The Virginia Compensation Board and Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services’ chart in the Post shows that there were 6,787 mentally ill inmates in Virginia jails in 2014 – a number that is likely to increase if trends from previous years keep going.
Jamycheal’s death is not exceptional. Christopher Lee Lopez died after having a grand mal seizure in a Colorado prison in 2013; “A state report found the nurse ‘failed to take