04 February 2023

From Bicycle Offense To Jail-Cell Suicide

Perhaps not surprisingly, the most common cause of death in jails and prisons, for inmates and employees alike, is suicide.  Perhaps equally unsurprising is this: About half of all inmates who take their own lives were convicted of severe violent offenses including murder and rape. My guess is that such detainees off themselves because they are facing the longest sentences--in some cases, life without the possiblity of parole--or realize that if they are released, they will be very old or have few prospects for the future, or both.

I mention all of this because Isiah Mitchell was not charged with any such crime. (At 26 years old, he was also half the age of a typical inmate suicide.) 

Last Friday, he rode his bicycle into traffic near North Barnes Avenue and Interstate 44 in Oklahoma City.  Bryant Hodge, an OKPCD police officer, pulled him over.  "You're a bike," Hodge explained.  "Ya gotta follow the rules of the road."

But a stop for a road violation took another turn.  According to Bryant, Mitchell was on his way to buy Fentanyl.  The drug "ain't something we need to be playing with," the officer admonished.  "That stuff's going to kill you."  According the arrest report, Mitchell "was happy that I kept him from making a very bad decision."

While holding Mitchell in the patrol car, Bryant found a Driving While Intoxicated warrant from 2016.  And this:  "You didn't appear for your court date," Hodge revealed.  Mitchell claimed that he wasn't fleeing justice:  He couldn't make his appointment because he'd been shot in the leg.

Three days after his arrest, Mitchell was in the Oklahoma County Detention Center, awaiting his transfer to the Garfield County Jail.  The county sheriff said there weren't enough deputies available to transport inmates.  Just before he would have been moved, staff members found him attempting suicide in his cell.  About an hour and 20 minutes later, he was declared dead in a local hospital.

So...while we can debate how appropriate was the law enforcement officials' response to Isaiah Mitchell's bicycle offense, his admission of his intention to commit another offense and his old warrant, it's hard not to think that his riding his bike into traffic didn't have to end with with his killing himself in a jail cell.

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