More than two years after the death of Jamycheal Mitchell at the Hampton Roads Regional Jail, there are many unanswered questions. Now, the General Assembly's watchdog is looking into the role of one state agency when it comes to investigating deaths in jails.
Jamycheal Mitchell wasted away at the Hampton Roads Regional Jail while waiting for a bed in the state mental hospital. His death sparked outrage and a number of investigations. Several entities were tasked with figuring out exactly how something like this could have happened.
The Office of the State Inspector General is supposed to be Virginia's top watchdog, but there are questions as to whether or not it can investigate jails and jail deaths, and what's the best way of doing this important work.
It faced backlash after its limited review of Jaymcheal's death produced few answers. There was a lack of clarity in state law at the time over what kind of role that office had in reviewing deaths at local jails.
“Any time you're dealing with issues of life and death or health, who is supposed to do what, when is an essential aspect of things going well,” Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission Senior Associate Director Justin Brown said.
Lawmakers hoped to close the loophole this past session by giving power to the State Board of Corrections. Now, with two agencies now possibly involved, there's confusion over the boundaries of those roles.
Through background research, interviews and data collection, JLARC is hoping to clear up the investigative picture.
“What does the law say about what's supposed to happen and then we go out and assess what is actually happening and try to kind of square those things up,” Brown explained. “If there's a big gap we figure out why there's a gap and what the solution is.”
The review will also re-examine the Inspector General's Office operations as a whole, which we're told is normal for a newer agency. It was only created in 2012.
With many other reviews on the list, JLARC won't start this one until Fall of next year. It should be complete by Fall of 2019.
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