Hampton Roads training event takes action to reduce number of inmate deaths

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - Hampton Roads jail leaders are taking action to reduce the number of people who die while locked up in correctional facilities.

A training event took place at the Hampton Roads Criminal Justice Training Academy Monday. Jail officials discussed changes to procedures and came together to learn how groups are working together. There were over 50 people from jails across the state who came to Newport News for this training session.

Newport News Sheriff Gabe Morgan said it is extremely difficult when an inmate dies while in custody.

“Unless you're morally deprived, it haunts you. Every single one. You think, 'What could we have done better?'" Morgan said.

The event was called Jail Death Reviews and Investigations: An overview, lessons learned and best practices.

Hampton Roads Regional Jail Superintendent Ronaldo Myers took his position five months ago.

“We all want to learn from each other and see what's working what's not,” said Myers.

Jail officials, employees and medical staff from agencies across the state came together for the program. They heard from officials with the Medical Examiner Office, Virginia State Police, Virginia Sheriff’s Association, Virginia Association of Regional Jails and other leaders.

They covered several topics including state legislative developments requiring oversight of jail death investigations, the role of jail administration, internal affairs, local police, state police and the Department of Justice. They talked about the number of people who die while being locked up and issues surrounding mental illness.

Virginia Public Safety and Homeland Security Official Brian Moran attended the event.  “They face similar challenges so they can exchange ideas and collaborate on how to best address those challenges,” said Moran.

Executive Director of the Virginia Sheriff's Association John Jones spoke to the group about the changes to the laws.  “Transparency is a key element to developing trust between the community and the jails,” said Jones.

Jamychael Mitchell and Henry Stewart both died inside the Hampton Roads Regional Jail. Both deaths raised serious concerns and sparked investigations. As a result, the jail and its former leadership were forced into the spotlight.

Several speakers at the training event encouraged transparency with the public as much as possible - especially with high profile cases. Sheriff Morgan said learning from the past is key when you are looking towards the future.

"Every time there's a death we think, 'What else could we have done differently?'" Morgan said.