AP NEWS

Judge criticizes jail on inmate’s mental health treatment

March 13, 2019

NORTH PRINCE GEORGE, Va. (AP) — A judge has sharply criticized administrators at a regional jail in Virginia for their treatment of an inmate who needed psychiatric care.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that Chesterfield General District Judge Pamela O’Berry told two top administrators at the Riverside Regional Jail that their handling of the inmate is a “frightening commentary” on the jail’s inadequate mental health services.

O’Berry made her comments Tuesday during a court hearing on the treatment of inmate Niesha Smith. The judge accused Interim Superintendent Karen Craig and Deputy Superintendent Major Walter Minton of lying and mishandling her order to transfer Smith to a state hospital for an evaluation after Smith exhibited extreme mental health distress.

Ed Riley, an attorney for Craig and Minton, said there was no attempt by the administrators to mislead the judge. He said Craig and Minton are going to “look at their processes and make sure they’re complying and doing everything they can to address any mental health needs of the inmates being held there.”

The judge told the administrators she was “not going to let this go away.” She took their cases under advisement until May 17.

Smith’s case is the latest in a string of allegations of mismanagement of inmates at Riverside. The jail serves Petersburg, Colonial Heights, Hopewell and the counties of Chesterfield, Charles City, Prince George and Surry.

In January, another judge convicted the jail’s recently retired superintendent and a member of his command staff of contempt of court for failing to obey an order to transfer a severely mentally ill inmate to Central State Hospital.

An investigation of two inmate deaths at Riverside in 2017 by a Virginia Board of Corrections jail review committee found apparent policy violations.

In one case, the investigation found that staff members failed to keep close enough watch on an inmate who committed suicide in his cell. It also found that an officer assigned to make mandatory twice-per-hour checks on him falsified entries in a jail logbook to make it look like his rounds had been completed.

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Information from: Richmond Times-Dispatch, http://www.richmond.com