SLO County Jail Report Details Abuse, Violence

September 1, 2021

An inmate held in a special type of restrictive housing at SLO County Jail.


A new report on the San Luis Obispo County Jail chronicles abuse ranging from punching inmates to denial of medical treatment – resulting in deaths and miscarriages in prison – as it details accounts of brutality, violations of civil rights; and failures of county administrators to properly train members of Parliament or to report use of force.

The August 31 report marks the culmination of the US Department of Justice’s three-year investigation into civil rights violations at the county jail. Investigators determined that county staff violated the constitutional rights of inmates by using excessive force and failing to provide constitutionally adequate medical and mental health care.

Between January 2012 and June 2020, 16 detainees died in custody, many in questionable circumstances.

On January 22, 2017, Andrew Holland, 36, died of a pulmonary embolism in his lungs after being tied in a restraint chair with his legs and arms shackled for more than 46 hours, which has been exclusively reported by CalCoastNews after a year. lengthy investigation into allegations of ill-treatment of detainees.

Ten days earlier, a judge had ordered Holland to be put on medication against his will and sent to a mental institution, but county staff did not comply.

While in the chair, a blood clot formed in Holland’s leg. When Holland was released from the chair, the blood clot traveled to his right lung, causing a pulmonary embolism and his death. He spent his last minutes writhing on the floor of a cell as MPs watched him through the glass cell door.

Shortly after Holland’s death, the FBI opened a criminal investigation into a series of county jail deaths. This investigation appears to be ongoing.

In October 2018, the Justice Department opened a civil rights investigation which found the county failed to provide adequate medical and mental health care to detainees, prevented excessive use of force, stopped submitting inmates for extended periods of restrictive housing and to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The report details specific cases of alleged violations of civil rights. These allegations include cases of spraying immobilized detainees with pepper spray, pulling detainees by the hair, slamming detainees against walls and detaining detainees for long periods of time.

The following cases are cases of excessive force as described in the report of the Ministry of Justice:

“In December 2018 AK (names of detainees withheld) shouted at MPs while he was safe in a caged area. Three deputies unlocked the door and AK calmly exited. An assistant grabbed the AK without resistance from behind and pushed him headfirst against a wall, causing him to bleed. The deputy lied about the force in the incident report, stating that AK had pulled away and “fell forward” towards the wall.

“In May 2018, AM allegedly kicked his cell door. The deputies opened his cell and lifted him by his elbows after handcuffing his hands behind his back and dragged him at least 30 feet to a wheelchair. There was no documented reason why staff did not bring his wheelchair to him instead of dragging him to the chair.

“AO allegedly cursed two deputies from inside his cell. The senior assistant grabbed the prisoner by the neck and repeatedly pushed him against a wall and on the floor even though AO came out of his cell with his hands behind his back. The first assistant then
pulled AO to his feet and escorted him into the “chicken wing” cargo hold while handcuffed.

“The senior assistant then inserted his right thumb and applied pressure to the soft tissue under AO’s jaw while waiting for a door to open even though AO was handcuffed and obeyed. More than a dozen guard officers watched and followed the senior assistant as he escorted AO in this manner – apparently abandoning their posts – but no one intervened.

“In an incident in December 2018, a group of six MPs participated in a teardown, at least three of whom used their bodies to pin the AU face down. Then, after the MPs appeared to have the AU under control on the ground, one of the MPs slowly released his pepper spray and – about a foot from the AU’s face – sprayed it in his eyes.

An inmate at the SLO County Jail in WRAP on January 17, 2018.

“In an incident in December 2016, a total of 11 MPs and two sergeants were involved in a teardown of AV in which they hit him four times, including at least two blows to the head, to” win [his] compliance ”, then began to put him in a WRAP, possibly compromising his circulation. After partially immobilizing AV in the WRAP, duty staff discovered he was unconscious and not breathing, necessitating emergency hospitalization.

In the months following Holland’s death, the county made several statements regarding plans to improve conditions, training and law enforcement in the prison. But inmates continued to die while staff refused or provided inadequate medical care, according to the report.

The report also describes cases of inadequate medical care, including:

On April 13, 2017, Kevin Lee McLaughlin, 60, of San Luis Obispo, died in SLO County Jail of a heart attack. McLaughlin suffered from hypertension, but prison staff did not provide an “adequate medical assessment when he entered detention, did not perform any laboratory tests or examinations, or monitor his condition in any way, and prescribed him high doses of ibuprofen, a drug that the FDA says can lead to heart attacks in people with high blood pressure.

“On the morning of his death, McLaughlin complained of pain in his left shoulder and arm, numbness and tingling, wetness and chest pain on his left side, yet the prison medical staff refused. his requests to be sent to the hospital. After noticing that McLaughlin’s breathing was abnormal, an assistant walked away and called the medics, and did not return for five minutes, after which McLaughlin stopped breathing and was unresponsive.

On November 27, 2017, Russell Alan Hammer, 62, who suffered from memory problems, died of deep vein thrombosis after being taken to the prison medical center.

Hammer suffered from Parkinson’s disease and suffered from auditory hallucinations and paranoia while in detention. “Upon his return to prison, he was kept in solitary confinement for over two weeks. The prison ignored her complaints about weight loss and weakness.

The report determined that detainees are “at significant risk of serious harm as a result of inadequate medical care”. Prisoners with life-threatening illnesses or major medical problems are often refused medication or treatment. Several pregnant inmates miscarried while county staff denied them adequate medical treatment.

Here are some examples from the report of failure to provide medication or appropriate care:

“LL, who was admitted to prison in April 2019, did not receive any HIV medication during her first week in detention. Then the prison started providing her with only one of the three drugs she was taking to manage her HIV. It was the only medication she received during the week before her release, and during that week she did not even receive this medication for three consecutive days. Receiving only one of the three HIV drugs creates a high probability of developing resistance to that drug, which is extremely dangerous. “

In February 2019, NN “reported abdominal pain and said she had just found out that her sex partner had gonorrhea. She was tested for it, but there was a three day delay in sending the labs and the positive results did not return for five days, when the prison began treating her for gonorrhea. Two days later, the prison took a pregnancy test, which came back positive, but she did not have an obstetrician appointment. Five days later, she reported vaginal bleeding to medical staff, who ordered an obstetrics referral two days later. “

Even though NN was suffering from vaginal bleeding, obstetric referral was not followed and she miscarried.

Sheriff Ian Parkinson

In its response to the report, the SLO County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the issues and concerns raised, but criticized the Justice Department for “ignoring the many corrective actions taken by the Sheriff’s Office.” over the past three years, according to a press release.

“The Sheriff’s Office has worked cooperatively with the Department of Justice for the past three years to investigate shortcomings and determine appropriate improvements to ensure our prison facility is fully compliant with federal law,” the Sheriff said. Ian Parkinson in a press release. “We are pleased with our progress so far and will continue to work diligently to provide a safe and secure prison facility.”

The county has 49 days to comply with at least 45 corrective actions identified in the report, or the United States attorney general can initiate legal action to force the county to correct its deficiencies.

“In listing these remedies, we note that during our investigation, the prison made changes to its staff, policies and procedures. We have taken these changes into account, but we find that they are insufficient to protect detainees from the harm identified, ”according to the report.

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