Hampton Roads Regional Jail reaches agreement with DOJ after alleged unconstitutional conditions reported

Posted at 6:26 PM, Aug 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-05 18:26:46-04

Portsmouth, Va. - The Hampton Roads Regional Jail Authority announced Wednesday that, after negotiations with the Department of Justice (DOJ), a mutual agreement has been reached resolving allegations outlined in the CRIPA notice issued in December 2018.

The agreement was reached after extensive meetings with DOJ and experts in correctional medicine and psychiatry.

According to the DOJ in 2018, the jail conditions specifically violate rights of prisoners protected by the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. It said that there is reasonable cause to believe that the jail fails to provide constitutionally-adequate medical and mental health care to prisoners, and places prisoners with serious mental illnesses in restrictive housing for prolonged periods of time under conditions that violate the Constitution.

On August 19, 2015, 24-year-old Jamycheal Mitchell's body was found inside the Hampton Roads Regional Jail. The lawsuit says he withered away in jail and died from wasting syndrome.

A judge’s order that would have sent Mitchell to a state mental health facility had been sitting in a file drawer for weeks before his death.

The plan is to now include an increase in medical and mental health staff, to enhance care provided to the prisoners.

In the 2018 CRIPA notice, in late 2015 there were 37.7 medical and mental health full-time equivalent employees (FTE’s) allotted to meet the needs of the jail population.

Officials say the jail has been increasing the number of medical and mental health staff members since 2015.

As of July 2020, there are 71.2 FTE’s allotted for medical and mental health staff.

The plan also calls to create a secure and acute mental health unit, to have professional individual and group therapy.

To better provide mental health services to individuals diagnosed with Serious Mental Illness (SMI) the jail partnered with Community Services Boards.

The Community Oriented Re-Entry Program (C.O.R.E.) grant, managed by HRRJ, and the Forensic Discharge Planning grant, supervised by Chesapeake Integrated Behavioral Healthcare (CIBH), provide services to inmates diagnosed with SMI. Accommodations include medication, transportation, housing, food, and connections to community services which help them succeed.

Related: DOJ alleges unconstitutional conditions at Hampton Roads Regional Jail, discrimination against mental health prisoners

Staffing for security has also increased, with 10 positions added in July 2019 and 10 more in July 2020. Funding has been included in future budgets to add 10 positions in January and July each year, until there is sufficient staffing as suggested by DOJ.

The plan also includes updating and modifying Policy and Procedures, reducing use of restrictive housing, and implementing enhanced training on suicide prevention and de-escalation techniques in pre-service and annual in-service training. In addition, HRRJ has trained 167 employees in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) and 55 staff members in Crisis Intervention Training (CIT).

The HRRJ had an average daily population at the end of June of 868 inmates. The jail successfully treated those inmates for a variety of medical and mental health issues including the following: chronic care issues such as diabetes and high blood pressure; pregnancy, cancer, dialysis, paraplegia, HIV and intellectual disabilities and mental health issues.

With these changes, Hampton Roads Regional Jail hopes to be a model for treatment of inmates with mental disabilities in the Commonwealth.