Did lack of oversight lead to jail deaths?

January 1, 2015
Sheriff Ian Parkinson

Sheriff Ian Parkinson


A San Luis Obispo County Jail inmate, who died from a heroin overdose, had not been seen by jail personnel for more than 10 hours when deputies became aware of his death, according to the coroner’s report.

Timothy Richard Janowicz was one of three inmates who died in the men’s jail in 2014. Inmates have access to drugs, hypodermic needles and other forms of contraband while deputies fail to follow procedures for cell checks.

In all three cases, sheriff’s department staff allegedly failed to either provide medical assistance or to check on inmates as required by department policy. Several former inmates and local attorneys contend conditions at the jail are so poor that multiple inmates have marred skin from the widespread incidences of staph infections and a lack of adequate medical care.

On Jan. 23, Josey Meche, 28, died from a drug overdose after flailing on a concrete cell floor for more than 20 minutes, according to the coroner’s report. Until he stopped moving, deputies offered him no assistance.

In March, Rudy Joseph Silva, 35, was discovered unconscious in his cell. He was transported to Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center where he died of influenza and a staphylococcus infection four days later. Jail mates claim he was sick for several days with major coughing fits, but did not receive the medical care he pleaded for until he was no longer conscious.

Timothy Richard Janowicz

Timothy Richard Janowicz

On May 30, Janowicz, 29, was found dead in his cell. Several weeks later, the sheriff’s department sent out a press release saying that Janowicz died of a heroin overdose, but refused to release the June 24 autopsy report, in violation of the California Public Records Act.

On Dec. 18, following more than a half dozen records requests, the sheriff’s department released both the autopsy and coroner’s report which describe bruises, gashes and multiple needle marks on Janowicz’ body.

According to the coroner’s report, after six months in the county jail, Janowicz died from an accidental overdose of heroin injected with a hypodermic needle.

Jail personnel had not seen Janowicz from between 7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m, according to the coroner’s report. More than 10 hours later, at 5:45 a.m., deputies entered the eight man cell after hearing inmates yelling, “man down.”

“The last time the decedent was seen alive was at approximately 1900 to 1930 hours on 05-25-2014,” the coroner’s report says.

Nevertheless, Sheriff Public Information Officer Tony Cipolla said that deputies check on inmates every 30 minutes.

“Deputies enter housing units for direct observation at least once every thirty minutes,” Cipolla said in an email.

At 6:40 p.m., a deputy called for Janowicz asking him to participate in a clothing exchange. However, Janowicz did not respond and another inmate told the deputy Janowicz did not need any clothing, the report says.

After hearing inmates yelling, “man down,” deputies entering the cell and discovered Janowicz dead in his bed with a bloody contusion on the back of his head and a hematoma on his abdomen. Included in his possessions was a homemade billy club, a weapon generally used for protection.

Even though Janowicz had multiple needle marks on his left arm and one on his right arm, the deputies did not find any needles or drugs in the eight-man cell, according to the autopsy and coroner’s reports.

“Inmates sanitized their cell of any contraband then called, ‘Man down’ at which time correctional staff responded and discovered Janowicz deceased,” the coroner’s report says.

The report says, Janowicz’ cellmates found him slumped over on the cell bars at an undisclosed time. The inmates then moved Janowicz to their cell eating area where they splashed water on his face, but were unable to arouse Janowicz.

The inmates then carried Janowicz to his bunk so that he could “sleep it off.”

The coroner’s report does not mention how drugs and needles are getting into the hands of prisoners. In addition, sheriff coroner investigators determined the contusion on back of his head and the hematoma on his abdomen had nothing to do with his death.

Meanwhile, the inmate death rate at the men’s jail, with a population this summer of 551 prisoners, is more than three times the national average.

During the past year, three men died in the men’s jail or .54 percent of inmates, while the nation average is .13 percent, according to Federal Bureau of Justice statistics data.

Of the seven Los Angeles County Jails, the Twin Towers Jail had the highest percentage of inmate deaths in 2014, according to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. In Los Angeles County, inmates suffering from severe mental illness or who have expressed suicidal thoughts are housed in the The Twin Towers facility.

With seven deaths in 2014 out of a population of 3,276 inmates, the Twin Towers Jail had a .19 percent death rate, which is less than half San Luis Obispo County Jail’s .54 percent per-capita death rate. Of the seven deaths at the Twin Towers, two were suicides and five were from natural causes.

Following several years of complaints that deputies at Los Angeles County Jails were neglecting, abusing and committing crimes against inmates, the FBI stepped in to investigate. After 18 of his sheriff deputies were charged with criminal mistreatment of inmates, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca stepped down in Jan. 2014.

If you have information about the conditions at the San Luis Obispo County Jail, please contact Karen Velie at (805) 234-1703.

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Wow!! This is wrong! It makes me sick to read this report. Most of this is simply not true.


Sorry you did not like what I wrote. But again this report is not fair, or completely true to the facts that occurred!


Welcome to CalCoastNews

Theo P. Neustic

Haha, Roger on that!

Mr. Holly

If you don’t want to overdose don’t use the drugs. Jails are jails, they do not have any star ratings. Staph infection in the jail? Twin Cities Hospital just received a horrible score for lack of cleanliness and they are suppose to be close to sterile. If you have ever been in a jail facility, and not necessarily an inmate, you would see that the population is mostly made up of dengenerates whose primary concern is not personal cleanliness, the odor will stay in your memory for a long time.

What is the answer? Who knows. If you could skin search everyone entering the jail facility that would greatly reduce the drugs. Or have drug sniffing dogs on duty to check visitors, sorry I think that is against their rights.

The Sheriff is doing a good job with the resources the taxpayers have given him and within the allowable laws.


One answer is to uncrowd the jails. That would mean not arresting everyone for petty crimes, or having a different facility for those as opposed to violent offenders.

Making some ‘crimes’, like those not against person or property more like misdemeanors with citations instead of incarceration, such as drug use or possession in smaller amounts.

The real reason these simple procedures are not done ? Because it’s a cash cow for LE, providing all sorts of extra ‘jobs’ and other perks.

Theo P. Neustic

For once we agree! There really are miracles


I’ve never read a report with merit that lays much trust in what inmates are selling because in all cases they’d like better treatment, right? But, staph infection to me is another issue. That can be remedied fairly quickly with directed maintenance and procedure.

And it sounds like we’ve got decent procedures for checking on these guys but, have they have become lax in doing so? It seems like the inmates are running the place if they can clean up their mess before they notify the jailer of a death. Did he really INTENTIONALLY inject heroin?

And why is there video camera catching a man punching a store clerk but we have none to have see what really happened in this instance?

Who’s in charge Sheriff P?


There’s a simple solution to not dying in jail. Don’t do crime and you won’t be arrested and put there. Jail should be a s**t hole. Ergo most people avoid it.


Thank you Baretta sounding south! lol


So 5 tenths of one % of inmates die. That’s one out of every 200 drug addled scumbag arrested. There is no story here.

Jon Tatro

So let me get this right you overdose on heroin and it’s the correctional officers fault. Yep, we have reached the pinnacle of “blame everyone else for my bad behavior and its consequences”. Very sad state we are in America, very sad indeed.

Rich in MB

It is not only the Sheriff’s fault…..but the Family of the Druggie should now be given $5Million dollars…ha ha ha …..you know I’m right…..the lawsuit is coming and the parents that failed their son will soon be evil 1%-ers….oh the irony.


Rich in MB: Don’t put it on the parent who failed their son. There are many great parents with great parenting skills, who have addict kids. Addiction is an illness and it isn’t as simple as ‘just say no.’


Spoken like a good law enforcement huh Jon? Let’s us not forget about your bogus lawsuit against the city of Paso Robles. Maybe, just maybe if this whole country looked at drug addiction as a disease instead of a crime we would be much better off. We sure could save some serious tax payer $ rather than paying the lazy scums who didn’t check on the guy. Oh, and great company line Tony Copola, you washed up newsman.


In order compare the SLO county jail to LA county jails, one must first understand the complex demographics and dynamics of the vastly different facilities.

San Luis is not equipped to deal with the overwhelming overflow of arrestee’s with multiple issues including drug dependency, mental illness victims of abuse, neglect and violence.

Comparing the two is like comparing apples to oranges.

Despite our affluent central coast culture, we have serious socio/cultural problems that are eroding away at out lifestyle.

Rich in MB

Ya you are right….those damn Illegal Immigrants that don’t speak English are a problem, I agree with you Pelican1. But all that will be made better with Obama’s Unconstitutional Amnesty…Help is on the Way.


No human beings are ‘illegal’.

Some that think they are human beings are mean and stupid, but even they are not ‘illegal’.


stupid and mean is the new black


Intentional benign neglect …which makes it something else.



SF: Many times I agree with your posts/comments here, but not this one. I for one do not think this is the deputies being purposefully neglectful; more than likely, most of the deputies working in the jail division either do not have the necessary training to ensure the safety of the inmates nor the training to recognize a true medical emergency when it happens. It is also likely that most deputies are not confident enough to physically control any out-of-control inmate without extensive backup.

This is a failure of leadership, period. If Sheriff Parkinson truly wants the jails to be run safe, efficient and humane, he will put the resources into training his deputies so that they can do the best job they can, and he can instill in those deputies the desire to do that best job. Without direction and follow though, nothing will change. By most accounts Sheriff Parkinson is doing a great job with the exception of the jails; time to step it up Mr. Parkinson, please.


Ten hours ?


That is ‘benign neglect’ at minimum.


I’m not disagreeing here, but this record is abysmal.

Rich in MB

Don’t commit a crime…then you don’t go to Jail.

With all that’s going on in the world, I just don’t see how I should put this up at the top of my “GAS” list. (Give A Shit). Do I want the sheriff knowing allowing brutality in the local jails….of course not…but this isn’t a boy scouts camp folks, this is a JAIL where the criminal element goes to vacation and gang members go to get some street cred….this isn’t a club med or even a SLO Frat house.


Yeah, and it shouldn’t be a dungeon, a concentration ( death ) camp, or a communist re-education facility either.

I’m reminded of the Niemoller quote.

Perhaps, when they come for any of us, there will be no one left to cry.


Rich in MB

“this isn’t a club med or even a SLO Frat house”


“I’m reminded of the Niemoller quote.

Perhaps, when they come for any of us, there will be no one left to cry”

Agree with both:

What does scares me most is that 50% of the population in the US (Same in California) had been incarcerated at one time or another!


Rich in MB

“this isn’t a club med or even a SLO Frat house”


“I’m reminded of the Niemoller quote.

Perhaps, when they come for any of us, there will be no one left to cry”

Agree with both:

What does scares me most is that 50% of the population in the US (Same in California) had been incarcerated at one time or another!


So you believe that nobody is ever arrested but is actually innocent of the charges? These are someone’s children we are talking about here. If the sheriff has a responsibility to check on them and does not, the sheriff is at fault. If they are to ensure there is no contraband in the facility, then they must. If other, larger, cities can manage this, then SLO should be able to.

Unless of course the sheriff is incompetent,