Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Wrongful Death of Mitrice Richardson

(13 paragraphs, 11 links) Mitrice Richardson's family and friends mourn her tragic death. Her disappearance after arrest in Lost Hills, California touched the lives of scores of people who helped search for her and signed petitions for a federal investigation while thousands across the country prayed that she would be found alive and well.  Her death will not be in vain if we are moved to change the way America responds to mental health crises.

Excerpts from LA Times article dated August 12, 2010:
The skeletal remains found in Malibu Canyon on Monday afternoon have been identified by authorities as those of Mitrice Richardson, the young woman who vanished nearly a year ago after being released from the Lost Hills/Malibu Sheriff's Station, according to a source familiar with the investigation.

The identification of the remains, found deep in a ravine by park rangers checking for marijuana plants, apparently brings to a grim close the much-publicized mystery over the whereabouts of the Cal State Fullerton graduate who would have celebrated her 25th birthday this past April.

Her arrest for being unable to pay an $89 dinner tab at a Malibu restaurant and her subsequent release in the dark hours of the early morning last Sept. 17 without a car, cellphone or purse sparked widespread criticism of Sheriff's Department personnel and triggered two lawsuits accusing the department of negligence.

"If you knew how many buses I've chased down," Ronda Hampton, a psychologist who was friends with Richardson, said recently.


Our deepest condolences to Mitrice Richardson's family and friends. I agree with a Twitter post by @FindMitrice - "Mitrice Richardson's death was AVOIDABLE. She deserves JUSTICE, and we will work as hard as possible to achieve it."

If a chronic medical condition had caused the health crisis Mitrice Richardson suffered in the upscale Malibu restraurant  restaurant on September 11, 2009, restaurant personnel would have called for emergency medical responders.  People who have heart attacks or suddenly go into diabetic coma are rushed to hospitals and treated promptly.  But Mitrice's health crisis was mental, not physical.  Therefore, police responded to the restaurant's call - not a medical team - and Mitrice was arrested.  Once again, America's answer to a citizens' mental health crisis was imprisonment and death.  Mitrice's mother has filed a wrongful death lawsuit.

Police officers who respond to a scene where someone is experiencing an emotional crisis should be trained to apprehend the individuals without harming them.  And no woman, especially one who is having a mental health crisis, should be released from police custody after 1:30 a.m. in an unfamiliar area without any cell phone, money or transportation, as reportedly happened in Mitrice Richardson's case.  In fact, people having a mental health crisis should be taken to a mental health care facility or to the psychiatric ward of a medical hospital for evaluation and treatment, not to jail.  Unfortunately, most police officers are inadequately trained for responding to such emergencies, and sick people are usually arrested due to the shortage of psychiatric hospital beds.  Mitrice Richardson's death need not be in vain.  Let us work together to change things for the next person who has an emotional crisis by making sure emergency responders have some place to take her other than to jail.

Please help make hospital care more accessible for Americans who require intervention for mental health crises and those who need long-term psychiatric care by supporting a federal bill to resume Medicaid for inpatient treatment - H.R.619.  Since Medicaid for inpatient psychiatric treatment ended several decades ago, psychiatric beds continue to dwindle as mental hospitals close across America.  The demand is too great for the few psychiatric beds that are available in most medical hospitals. Hospital insurance for inpatient psychiatric care was not included in the national health care reform bill that Congress passed in March 2010, but there is legislation pending to help decriminalize mental illness in America. A former psychiatric nurse, Rep. Eddie Johnson (D-TX), introduced H.R.619 into Congress in January 2009 to resume Medicaid for mental hospitalization.  Passing the important bill would help end discrimination against people who experience an emotional crisis like Mitrice Richardson as well as those who have severe mental illness like my brother Larry Neal, who died under secret arrest in Memphis Shelby County Jail in 2003 - .  Mentally challenged Americans need and deserve hospital care just as diabetic and heart patients do - not imprisonment and death.  Unfortunately, 1.25 million mentally challenged persons are currently inmates, including many who were arrested on lunacy warrants or for minor offenses like disturbing the peace or vagrancy.

Learn about and VOTE for H.R.619.  Use the link below to access the bill at, where you can say to elected officials, “We care about Mitrice Richardson and want to ensure that this never happens again."

In his speech to the nation on August 31, 2010, President Obama announced an end to the U.S. war in Iraq and preparations to wind up U.S. domination in Afghanistan.  According to a recent study, as many as 54% of combat soldiers may transition home suffering from various levels of post traumatic stress syndorme.  The condition may be worst among soldiers who did repeated tours of combat duty like Sgt. John M. Russel, a 44-year-old communication specialist from Sherman, Texas who served 16 years in the U.S. Army before suffering a tragic mental health crisis in Baghdad. Most soldiers will adjust well to civilian life, but what of those who do not?  Will they wind up coming home to become prisoners of war?  How many will be killed during lunacy arrest attempts like Oscar Morales or suffer abuse and die while incarcerated like Larry Neal and Tim Souders or go missing like Mitrice Richardson?  Decriminalizing mental illness and mproving American's accessibility to psychiatric hospitals or community care programs would save and restore lives, improve community safety, and reduce the nation's prison budget, which is currently over $50 billion per year largely because of 1.25 million mentally ill inmates who should be in hospitals or community care programs depending on their offenses and functionality.  Taxpayers save nothing, but risk much, by ignoring the moral responsibility to help neighbors, relatives, and friends who have mental health challenges.  Consider the avoidable tragedies presented in my article "Am I a Bad Person?" at this link:

JAIL IS THE LAST THING THAT MENTAL PATIENTS NEED, AND TOO OFTEN, IT IS THE VERY LAST THING THEY EXPERIENCE. Please join our effort to decriminalize mental illness. No one deserves to be punished for having a health crisis.   See this website for more information about Mitrice Richardson's tragedy:

The full LA Times article regarding Mitrice Richardson's remains being found is available at this link:

Mary Neal
Assistance to the Incarcerated Mentally Ill

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