Father, son both die in SLO County Jail

January 13, 2015


A Morro Bay man who died in San Luis Obispo County Jail over the weekend passed away in the same location his son died 14 years ago.

On Sunday morning, 63-year-old Morro Bay resident David Osborn Sr. died after collapsing at the jail. Osborn’s death marked the fourth fatality at the county jail in a span of less than 12 months, prompting allegations of neglect.

Shortly following Osborn’s death, his daughter, Tara Osborne-Byrd, informed CalCoastNews that her brother, too, died in San Luis Obispo County Jail. On Jan. 21, 2001, David Osborn Jr. hanged himself in his jail cell.

Jail guards found Osborne Jr. hanging from a noose he constructed out of clothing.

Prior to the hanging, family members warned San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office officials that Osborne Jr. was suicidal. However, jail staff did not move Osborne Jr. to a high-security cell, as protocol requires.

The family later sued the county and received a $30,000 settlement.

Recently, several attorneys and former inmates contend that conditions in the county jail are so poor that multiple inmates had marred skin because of a widespread outbreak of staph infections. Critics also contend that jail staff has displayed neglect to health conditions in the cases of the four men who have recently died while incarcerated.

Hours prior to Osborne Sr.’s death, he complained that his blood sugar was low and said that he needed medical attention. Jail medical staff saw Osborne Sr. at 2:30 a.m. and 7:15 a.m. on Sunday, sheriff’s spokesman Tony Cipolla said in a press release.

At 8:49 a.m., jail workers allowed Osborne Sr. to leave his intake cell. He walked to the jail medical office and sat on a concrete bench awaiting medical care.

Osborne Sr. then collapsed in front of jailers, who used an automated external defibrillator in an attempt to revive him. At 9:57 a.m., doctors at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center pronounced him dead.

The Morro Bay man had been in custody for being drunk in public. Police arrested him twice Saturday for the same offense.

In 2014, men aged 28, 35 and 29 each died in San Luis Obispo County Jail.

On Jan. 23, 28-year-old Josey Meche died from a drug overdose after flailing on a concrete cell floor for more than 20 minutes. Jail guards offered him no assistance until he stopped moving.

In March, 35-year-old Rudy Joseph Silva died of influenza and a staphylococcus infection four days after he was transported to the hospital from the jail. Inmates claim Silva was sick for several days with coughing fits and that he pleaded for medical care but did not receive any until he was no longer conscious.

On May 30, jail workers found 29-year-old Timothy Richard Janowicz dead in his cell. The sheriff’s office then sent out a press release saying he died of a heroin overdose.

More than six months later, the sheriff’s office release Janowicz’s autopsy after receiving numerous record requests for the report. The autopsy and coroner’s report each describe bruises, gashes and multiple needle marks on his body.

The coroner’s report also says jail staff did not see Janowicz for 10 hours, though policy requires workers to enter group cells every 30 minutes.

Last year, the death rate in San Luis Obispo County Jail was more than three times the national average, according to Federal Bureau of Justice statistics.

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Anytime someone goes to jail, regardless of what kind of person they may be, they are in a life-threatening situation; one which should be avoided at all costs.

There is merit to the sentiment that one should live rightly and responsibly and never have to worry about incarceration, but it has no bearing on a discussion of jail conditions because even criminals have the right to be sentenced accurately. The imposition of imprisonment should stand alone, without the added risk of death by disease or infection.

If one is killed by another inmate… well, that’s got alot to do with how one comports himself while incarcerated and is a different matter entirely. Exposure to deadly malaise is not something that can be managed by the incarceree (it amounts to a punishment over and above the judicial sentence) and is the responsibility of the facility to administer out of existence.

It should also be noted that proper comportment of oneself toward institution staff creates a situation in which health complaints are less likely to be dismissed as malingering.

Wholesome and starchy and thoroughly unappealing (as befits a criminal prison), the food is not moldy nor rotten, but often stale. Temperatures are kept constant and a bit cool because everyone cannot have a thermostat of his own, and because people are less likely to remain explosively confrontational once they become aware that they’re shivering. Blankets are not hard to come by, but are not handed back and forth among inmates because it leads to fights.

These facilities are not created nor maintained to make people feel good about going there, and that’s 100 percent just. Dying of a staph infection because one’s been locked up next to an untreated one is profoundly unjust.