SLO County Sheriff to give presentation on inmate health and jail safety

SLO County Sheriff to give presentation on inmate health and jail safety

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. - In front of a packed house, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson made a public presentation on what happened to Andrew Holland, the San Luis Obispo County inmate who died in a restraint chair.

This situation is one Parkinson says put the jail between a rock and a hard place, telling the supervisors: "If custody staff had chosen to remove Andrew at that time, it would have been against the medical and mental health staff advice and if he had injured or more significantly killed himself, we would certainly be negligent putting staff in a catch 22."

Parkinson admitted that staff left Holland in the chair for too long, but were trying to follow guidelines that they believed were safe. 

He argues that the staff is not trained to make medical or mental health decisions.

"Staff must rely on professionally trained direction on mental health and medical experts to decide what is best for the patient as I stated earlier, our staff are not trained in either field to an extent to make a medical or mental health decision," Parkinson explains. 

This is something that was echoed by some of the numerous people that signed up to give public comment to the supervisors. 

"The sheriff is the sheriff - he's a great sheriff but he's not a doctor, he's not a dentist, he's not a psychiatrist," says commenter John Hackleman. 

That's not enough for people like the Holland family. His cousin, J. Tavener Holland tells us: "If the sheriff really wanted to promote his position, which has been that they followed appropriate policies and procedures and no laws were broken - then there should be no impediment - it should be in his interest to advocate for the release of the video."

But Sheriff Parkinson made no mention of the video at all. 

Among some of the changes Sheriff Parkinson did announce included: during cases like Andrew's they will admit inmates into a mental health facility more quickly -- whether that be in the county or elsewhere.

The restraint chair has been permanently banned and placing inmate in restraints for longer than two hours requires approval. 

The sheriff is also restricting the amount of time in a safety cell, after 48 hours the time in the cell can only be extended after a psychiatrist approves of it.

A recent grand jury examination of the jail found the following:

  • F1. There is inadequate physical space to conduct programming for male inmates. This lack of space restricts the amount of programming offered, as well as inmate participation.
  • F2. There is no single official at the County Jail level that has true oversight and responsibility over all aspects of an inmate’s well-being.
  • F3. Other counties sometimes contract correctional health care services to an outside provider giving the custodial side direct responsibility over all aspects of an inmate’s well-being.
  • F4. Violations noted in the biennial BSCC report, issued September 7, 2016 involve health and safety issues that are largely managed by the County Health Agency.
  • F5. Recent deaths of inmates at the County Jail and violations noted in the most recent BSCC report have raised public concern over the adequacy of health and safety procedures and policies related to the current population.

The Sheriff and the County Health Agency are expected to make a report on how they have fixed these findings by the end of the year. 

Ultimately, the county board decided to have their staff make a presentation outlining private companies they can hire that can help with the medical, mental health and dental services in the jail.

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