The Horrifying Story of Jamycheal Mitchell, Who Starved to Death in Jail After Stealing a Snickers (Via @ShaunKing)
Credit to Shaun King, story first appeared on DailyKos.
The story of Jamycheal Mitchell should make national headlines.
For a living, I wade through hundreds and hundreds of awful cases of police brutality, torture, prison/jail abuse, misconduct, and racial injustice and have the agonizing pressure to choose which of those stories to amplify to the world. Ninety-five percent of what I learn never gets told. With all of that said…
The injustice, abuse, corruption, incompetence, discrimination, and horror faced by Jamycheal Mitchell may be the worst I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s that horrendous.
On Wednesday, August 19, at 5:45 AM, Mitchell was found dead in a Hampton Roads, Virginia, jail cell. Two days later, it barely made a whimper in the local news.
In a statement later released by police, law enforcement claimed that Mitchell died of “natural causes.”
“As of right now it is deemed ‘natural causes’,” Natasha Perry, the master jail officer at the Hampton Roads regional jail in Portsmouth, said of his death in an interview. Perry said there were no obvious outward signs of injury to the 24-year-old’s body. Portsmouth police are looking into the death.
When a law enforcement official made that statement, it was clear that we could not trust another word they said about this case, their role in his death, and their potential coverup of it.
Nothing about the arrest, incarceration, or death of Jamycheal Mitchell was natural. Instead, it reveals a system designed to chew up and spit out people of color as if they are worthless pieces of trash. Add mental illness to the equation and Mitchell never stood a damn chance.
Let’s rewind a bit ….
On April 21, two days after his 24th birthday, Jamycheal Mitchell was arrested for stealing less than $5 worth of snacks from a Virginia 7-Eleven store. The snacks included a Snickers, a Mountain Dew, and a Zebra Cake, which altogether probably cost more like $3.50.
This a crime, no doubt, but Mitchell, according to court records, had already been diagnosed with severe mental illness and was ruled permanently disabled and unfit for work because of it. This was a lifelong battle for him.
At that very point, a special designation should’ve been given to his case and he should’ve either been taken home and released to his family or immediately taken to a mental health facility. Again, we’re talking about $3.50 of snacks taken by a hungry mentally ill man who is unable to work.
The very opposite of this happened, though. Mitchell, who at the time of his arrest stood 6 foot, 3 inches, and weighed approximately 185 pounds, was taken to the city jail.
For three weeks he languished there, all for those damn snacks, until he was transferred across town to the regional jail on May 11. There, he languished, at great expense to taxpayers, for ten more days until he finally saw a judge.
Judge Morton Whitlow ruled Mitchell was not competent to stand trial and ordered that he be transferred to Eastern State hospital, a state-run mental health facility in Williamsburg, for treatment.
Again, just to be clear, we’re talking about a mentally ill man not being able to stand trial for stealing snacks.
Having already spent a month between two jails, and declared unfit for trial because of his mental illness, we now know that what should’ve taken hours, days maybe, first turned into weeks, then into months.
For three more months, Mitchell, having already served a month in jail, languished away there.
I say languished because something awful happened to him between the time he entered jail and the day his body left there. His family has communicated that he appeared to weigh a little more than 100 pounds and was completely unrecognizable and emaciated.
His family believes he starved to death in jail.
“The person I saw deceased was not even the same person.” Adams, who is a registered nurse, said Mitchell had practically no muscle mass left by the time of his death.
As you see, we have a huge gap in our story. Mitchell didn’t starve to death overnight, but died slowly, day by day, over a period of months while in jail. At any given point, any decision the jail could’ve made, including taking him to a public hospital or taking him back to his family, would’ve been exponentially better than what they chose to do by letting him rot to death there.
It’s hard to believe that not one mental health facility could’ve accepted him as a patient. At the point in which he had lost 15 or 20 or 40 pounds, it should’ve been realized that jailers were facing a dire emergency in need of immediate medical attention, but this didn’t happen and we don’t need to guess why.
Jamycheal Mitchell was not treated like someone who truly mattered.
THIS IS WHAT WE MEAN when we say Black Lives Matter.
How worthless do you have to believe a man to be, in modern America no less, when you allow him, day in and day out, to starve to death before your very eyes?
How little courage must employees have had to not notify the media in advance of his death?
Again, and we must say it, this man stole a Snickers, a Zebra Cake, and a Mountain Dew but died of starvation after serving four months in jail without being charged with a crime.
This is America. 2015.
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