The death of Jamycheal Mitchell is a tragedy that has raised critical questions about how and why Virginia’s safeguards to protect vulnerable citizens can be so insufficient and porous as to allow a young man in an acute mental-health crisis to deteriorate and die on the floor of a jail cell. Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D) shares these concerns and the frustration of many Virginians over the lack of clear answers surrounding Mitchell’s death.
Contrary to Pete Earley’s May 15 Local Opinions essay, “Awaiting answers on Jamycheal Mitchell’s death,” the Office of the Attorney General has never and would never advise a client agency to obstruct an investigation. In fact, the OAG facilitated an exchange of information between the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services and the Portsmouth General District Court during the department’s investigation, ensuring that it received the information it requested. We have found no evidence that the inspector general’s office ever requested information from the court during its investigation, but if that request had been made, a similar exchange of information would have occurred.
This tragedy has shown, yet again, that Virginia must do more to provide community-based services and support to people with mental illness, especially when they come into contact with the criminal-justice system. It is clear there is still much more work to be done.
Cynthia E. Hudson, Richmond
The writer is chief deputy attorney general