It’s been almost a year since Mitrice Richardson’s body was found and today the sheriff’s department is no closer to solving her homicide than the L.A.P.D. is in finding who beat Giants’ fan Brian Stowe into a coma on the Dodger’s opening day. But at least in Stowe’s case, the L.A.P.D. is actually making an effort to find the criminals involved and have already put measures in place to make sure that what happened to Stowe never happens to another person at Dodger stadium. The same can’t be said about Mitrice Richardson as lawmakers both in Sacramento and in Los Angles County have not only been slow to jump on the Mitrice’s Law bandwagon—they don’t even want to go for the ride.
From a practical point of view, you’d think that local lawmakers would be eager to put into place uniform policies and procedures concerning the safe release of prisoners from Los Angeles county jails if for no better reason than to limit the amount of wrongful death lawsuits lodged at the county and settled behind closed doors at the taxpayers expense. But then again, nothing about Mitrice Richardson’s disappearance or the investigation to find her has ever made any sense, so why should things change after her death?
By all accounts, the 24-year-old Cal State Fullerton graduate should have never been arrested for failing to pay her $89 bill at Malibu’s Geoffrey’s restaurant and possession of less than an ounce of personal use marijuana—celebrities in the same area have been guilty of far worse and walked away with less than a slap on the wrist from law enforcement.
And while the county’s watchdog Office of Independent Review can find no wrongdoing in the handling and release of Mitrice Richardson, chances are that she would have been alive today to see her 26th birthday on Saturday, April 30th had things been handled differently. It is not standard procedure for inmates to be released from jail, disappear, only to be found dead nearly a year later.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department operates the largest jail system in the United States and the largest jail system in the free world. Policies for releasing inmates, in particular female inmates, should be uniform across the entire county, not just in South L.A. or downtown Los Angeles, not just for Black and brown inmates, and not just for hotel heiresses and junkie actresses.
Female inmates who are not being released to a waiting ride from a relative, friend, or taxi should not be released into the dead of night (no pun intended), instead they should be held in custody until daylight to ensure their safety—regardless of the location of the jail. In addition, there needs to be a clearly worded policy on how the sheriff’s department handles citizen’s arrest complaints from businesses as well as the transporting of female inmates by male deputies.
Had a policy been put into the place addressing these guidelines, Mitrice might still be alive today.
Bu there is hope because Mitrice’s Law is possible with the right support from lawmakers.
Examples of this kind if support include California lawmakers passage (and signing) in record time Chelsea’s Law, a law that puts anyone convicted of a violent sex offense of a child in California behind bars for life, after the murder of well-to-do 17-year-old Chelsea King in 2010. King disappeared in February, was found dead in March, and by September 2010, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had signed into law Chelsea’s Law.
Lawmakers are now using the same speed and determination to create a law to require victim notification 30 days before California’s governor can act on a commutation request—this after former Gov. Schwarzenegger’s 11th-hour decision to reduce the prison sentence of Esteban Nuñez, the son of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez.
So you see, it can be done, the question is, why isn’t it being done?
Mitrice would have been 26 on Saturday. And while the sheriff’s department considers her case to be colder than ice and deemed an unsolvable mystery—there can be no rest until there is justice for Mitrice. That means not only solving her homicide but also ensuring that what happened to Mitrice doesn’t happen again.