A Virginia jail recorded over video footage outside the cell where a 'severely emaciated' man died in custody

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Man Jailed For Months Over $5 Theft Found Dead In Cell

In April 2015, 24-year-old Jamycheal Mitchell was arrested on charges of stealing $5 worth of food from a 7-Eleven.

Four months later, Mitchell was found dead in his jail cell at the Hampton Roads Regional Jail in Portsmouth, Virginia.

The jail is now saying that video footage taken outside the cell no longer exists after the jail allowed the video to be automatically taped over, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, which requested a copy of the video through a Freedom of Information Act request.

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"There is no security footage taken outside of Mr. Mitchell's cell during his incarceration at Hampton Roads Regional Jail," Superintendent David L. Simons wrote to the Times-Dispatch in response to its request.

The footage was thought to potentially reveal what type of medical care Mitchell received in his cell, how often he was monitored and given food, and whether he returned his trays empty, an attorney for Mitchell's family told the Times-Dispatch. Mark Krudys sent a letter to the jail 14 days after Mitchell's death requesting that it preserve the footage.

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A Virginia jail recorded over video footage outside the cell where a 'severely emaciated' man died in custody
Prisoners stand while being processed for intake at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, in Jackson, Ga. They arrive by the busload each Tuesday and Thursday, dozens of new inmates entering Georgiaâs prison system. Most stay only a week or two. But for those sentenced to die, this is their last stop. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Frederick Harris, right, cuts the hair of Josh Harris, no relation, as he is processed for intake at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, in Jackson, Ga. When inmates arrive, their possessions are inventoried. Then they shower and don white jumpsuits. They sit in barber chairs while permanent inmates give them close haircuts, then pose for an ID photo. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
A motivational poster hangs on the wall as prisoners stand at attention while being processed for intake at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, in Jackson, Ga. The prison, the stateâs biggest, houses about 2,100 male inmates on a wooded, 900-acre campus about 50 miles south of Atlanta. A warden and three deputy wardens oversee more than 600 employees. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Prisoner Ricky Wheat looks out from his cell at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, in Jackson, Ga. Inside the prison itâs loud and busy. Heavy metal gates clank open and shut. Inmates shuffle in single-file lines, guided by just a few guards. Chatter, shouts and the crackling of radios echo with nothing soft in sight to absorb the sound. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
A prisoner faces a mural painted by inmates on a cinderblock wall inside the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, in Jackson, Ga. When visitors approach, inmates in the hallways turn their backs and stand close to the walls. That makes it easy for guards to spot a guy who steps out of line. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Capt. Dwain Williams checks on a prisoner in the the Special Management Unit, known as high-max at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, in Jackson, Ga. Face-to-face interaction is rare. The cells are only 7 by 13½ feet, and inmates canât see out unless guards slide back a metal cover over the grated opening on the door. Meals slide through an opening like a mail slot. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
An inmate looks out of his cell in the the Special Management Unit, known as high-max at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, in Jackson, Ga. A select few have glass instead of sliding metal doors as windows because theyâre known to hurt themselves and need extra supervision. Theyâre on the same row as others whose cells are behind a glass partition because they have a history of throwing things, including bodily fluids, from their cells. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
An inmate takes a GED exam at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, in Jackson, Ga. While many in high-max wonât ever be free, some will eventually get out. The GED program aims to help a relatively small number of inmates who will eventually get out be better prepared for release. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Sgt. Michael Stovall looks through a set of security gates on death row at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, in Jackson, Ga. The inmates on death row have been convicted of horrific crimes, but they generally cause few problems according to prison Warden Bruce Chatman. Possibly because many still have appeals pending and donât want to risk jeopardizing a chance, however slim, that their lives could be spared, he said. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Personal items sit on shelves of a prisoner's cell on death row at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, in Jackson, Ga. The 76 death row inmates live in four âpodsâ of neatly kept single-inmate cells measuring just 6½ by 9 feet and feature a bed, sink, toilet and shelves. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Shoes sit under a prisoner's bed in his cell on death row at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, in Jackson, Ga. Georgia has executed inmates by injection since October 2001, when the state Supreme Court ruled electrocution violated the stateâs ban on cruel and unusual punishment. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
A prisoner on death row stands in his cell at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, in Jackson, Ga. An electric chair that was used in 23 executions, a primitive-looking wooden armchair outfitted with leather straps, now sits unused in a closet off the area where witnesses sit for executions. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
A cell sits empty on death row at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, in Jackson, Ga. Once a judge signs an execution order, the warden meets with the inmate to read him the order, give him a copy and ask if he has any questions. The inmate doesnât return to death row but instead is held in the prisonâs medical area under 24-hour watch by two guards for the roughly two weeks until his execution date. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
A calendar hangs inside a prisoner's cell on death row at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, in Jackson, Ga. On the day of the execution, the condemned inmate can receive visitors until about 3 p.m., when heâs given a medical checkup and then brought to a holding cell near the execution chamber around 5 p.m. Heâs given his final meal and has an opportunity to record a final statement. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Sgt. Andrew Archie walks through death row at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, in Jackson, Ga. The 76 death row inmates live in four âpodsâ of neatly kept single-inmate cells measuring just 6½ by 9 feet and feature a bed, sink, toilet and shelves. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Prison Warden Bruce Chatman talks with prisoners on death row as they walk in a yard at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, in Jackson, Ga. On the unusually warm early December morning, six men were in the yard that includes basketball and volleyball nets. Several took the opportunity to bend the wardenâs ear, asking about a backed-up toilet and people allowed to visit. Another asked: âHey, warden. Can you help us get a basketball? Itâs been over two months.â (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Correctional officers are reflected in a puddle as they stand guard outside a yard for death row inmates at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, in Jackson, Ga. Inmates are allowed into the common area or into the outside yard in small groups of men who are known to get along. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Deputy Warden of Security Keith Eutsey, left, and Warden Bruce Chatman walk to the execution chamber along rows of barbed wire at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, in Jackson, Ga. Death row inmates donât have far to go when their appeals run out. The chamber where lethal injections take place, a small room with a gurney, separated by a large pane of glass from the observation area, is on the grounds. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
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"You have a death of a severely emaciated person who was mentally ill in his cell," Krudys said. "Those circumstances are highly unusual, and you would have thought they would have preserved anything and everything related to those circumstances, including the videotape."

Following Mitchell's April 2015 arrest, a judge ruled he was not competent to stand trial for his misdemeanor charges of petty larceny and trespassing, The Guardian reported. Mitchell then spent nearly four months in the Hampton Roads regional jail awaiting a transfer to Eastern State hospital for treatment, though the facility had no vacancies. The Guardian reported that neither court officials, the Portsmouth police department, nor the jail could explain why Mitchell had not been given the opportunity to be released on bail.

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Mitchell's family told The Guardian he suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and, by his death, had lost nearly 50 pounds during his detention. His family said jail officials told them Mitchell had declined meals and refused to take the medication prescribed to him, which included the antipsychotics Haldol and Cogentin.

An autopsy confirmed that the causes of his death were a heart defect and "wasting syndrome" — meaning extreme weight loss — the medical examiner's office in Norfolk told the Times-Dispatch.

One jail official argued that there was no reason to preserve the footage showing the door of Mitchell's cell because the jail saved the images only when there's "something significant" to review.

"If there's nothing on the video that's going to show any type of criminality or negligence, we're not going to maintain it," the jail's assistant superintendent, Lt. Col. Eugene Taylor III, told the Times-Dispatch. He added that the video system used during Mitchell's detention would automatically record over the existing footage every 18 days.

The dispute over the footage is not the first time the jail has come under fire since Mitchell's death. The incident sparked investigations by the state inspector general and Virginia's Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services into the care Mitchell received at the jail and why he hadn't been transferred to the hospital, The Virginian-Pilot reported.

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"The more I learn, the more I don't like," Virginia Delegate Peter Farrell told The Virginian-Pilot last month. "And it seems like nobody wants to stand up and take responsibility for it in any upfront way."

Farrell said the jail did not provide Mitchell with basic medical care. In a hearing with lawmakers, one of the investigators charged with reviewing the incident said Mitchell was most likely not the only inmate to suffer neglect in the jail.

In April, Virginia's state inspector general delivered a 16-page report to Gov. Terry McAulifferegarding Mitchell's death and the state's procedures for referring and admitting Hampton Roads inmates to the Eastern State hospital. The report found "multiple, significant risk points" involved in transferring inmates from the jail to the hospital, problems with the "maintenance and accuracy" of the jail transfer waiting list, and "significant concerns" in the quality of NaphCare, the jail's former medical and mental-health care provider. It also found that a set of recommendations made in 2014 to improve the state justice system's interactions with inmates with behavioral health issues were never implemented.

But on Monday, Virginia's Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services — which conducted its own investigation released before the state inspector general's — released an eight-page response to the state inspector general's report claiming it was not authorized to make the changes recommended by the state inspector general.

"It is not possible to produce the array of community services needed while Virginia lags so far below the rest of the nation for spending on community behavioral health services," the department's interim commissioner, Jack Barber, wrote in the response.

"If [the state inspector general's report] does not clearly delineate where other responsible agencies must share their part in the change efforts [the department] is concerned that lawmakers, advocates and the general public will continuously be frustrated about the inability to make meaningful progress."

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