SLO County reaches $5 million settlement in jail torture death

July 27, 2017

Carty (Andrew’s father) and Andrew Holland

The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors has agreed to pay $5 million to the family of a man who died after jail guards left him strapped in a chair for more than 46 hours.

The board has also agreed to implement changes at the jail. However, it is not immediately clear what changes the county has agreed to make.

Paula Canny, the attorney for the family of 36-year-old Andrew Holland, hired a team of professionals to inspect the jail and make recommendations to help ensure that in the future inmates will not suffer because of neglect or mistreatment. Dr. Homer Venters, the program director for Physicians for Human Rights, toured the jail and made multiple recommendations including barring the use of restraint chairs.

A restraint chair — sometimes dubbed the “Devil’s Chair” — is considered by some critics to be a torture device.

On Jan. 20, deputies strapped Holland naked in a restraint chair in the jail’s frigid drunk tank where he remained until shortly before his death, two days later. During that time, deputies failed to provide Holland with adequate food and water or allow him to use a restroom.

While in the chair, a  blood clot formed in Holland’s leg. Upon Holland’s release from the chair, the blood clot traveled to his right lung causing a pulmonary embolism and his death.

For years, staffers at the county jail have failed to comply with state and federal laws regarding the treatment of mentally ill inmates, according to jail inspection reports.

Shortly after Holland’s death, the sheriff’s department sent out a press release that drastically contradicts custody records, an autopsy report and a video of Hollands time in the restraint chair. During a press conference, Sheriff Ian Parkinson painted a picture of responsible guards who properly did range of motion exercises on Holland’s limbs every two hours, in accord with sheriff’s protocol.

However, a video of Holland’s time in the chair reveals that guards did not follow sheriff protocols in place to prevent blood clots. For example, guards rotated Holland limbs for only a minute or two at a time rather than the protocol of ten minutes and at intervals much longer than two hours.

On Jan. 22 at 4:45 p.m., after restraining Holland in the “Devil’s chair” for more than 46 hours, guards moved Holland to an adjacent cell, released the straps, and then tipped the chair over dumping Holland onto the cold concrete floor.

The guards then left Holland in the frigid drunk tank without a bed or clothing, according to jail records.

Multiple times, guards looked in at Holland lying motionless on the cement floor, but did nothing.

At 5:20 p.m., guards entered the cell and rolled Holland onto his back and discovered he was pale and cold to the touch, records show. At 5:36 p.m., medics pronounced Holland dead.

Shortly after Holland’s death, the FBI launched an investigation into a series of deaths at the county jail, county officials said.

In the six years since Parkinson was sworn in as sheriff, 11 people have died while in San Luis Obispo County Jail custody, twice the number who died in the prior six years, according to the California Department of Justice.

Over the past decade, the use of restraint chairs have led to multiple inmate deaths. In several case, jailers have been charged with manslaughter because of their failure to follow required safety protocols.

On Tuesday, the Oklahoma State Attorney General announced the arrests of Garfield County Sheriff Jerry Niles and five Garfield County jail employees on second-degree manslaughter indictments for causing an inmate’s death through negligence. The inmate was found dead last year after more than 48 hours strapped in a restraint chair.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

I’ll just leave this here for you to mull over.

Just why is the sheriff in SLO still free to commit more crimes?

Why ? Is Oklahoma any different? Read the story – they’re not much different, use of a confinement chair, neglect.

It’s a repeat offender thing, when you fail to hold people responsible. And them you will have yet another crime to wring your dirty little hands over. Every cop knows this.

Overlooking the tragic treatment of this young man for a second (and it shouldn’t be overlooked at all, my apologies) and just focusing on the economic arguments tells me Parkinson needs to go.

Sure, he’s a nice guy, everyone knows him, and he’s great to have a beer with, but he’s dipping into our wallets now. Where does the $5 million come from? Does the county have sheriff insurance?

Double the deaths in his 6 years than in the previous 6 years!! What other evidence do you need to stand up and make a decision here?

I heard that Andrew’s parents want to donate some of the money to help others? Maybe they can help fund Sunny Acres to add another facet to their existing clean and sober mission. It would help having medical staff there to insure prescribed drugs are taken.

What a wonderful idea. People who really want help need a place to go to get that help.

Sherri Ian Parkinson ought to be arrested immediately, and charges with manslaughter.

I would cut his pay to zero, and move to seize his pension.

Enough is enough.


Hopefully this is a 5 million dollar lesson that the County will learn from.

The bottom line falls back to a simple question? How do we as a society do we want to spend our money? There are two main schools of thought- prevention and punishment. The past 15 years have been spent decreasing the spending on mental health, physical health, and social work. That money was funneled to police. More panga boat and unicorn catchers, more deputies, more substations. This sort of spending isn’t exclusive to SLO County, but I am telling you, this county more than any other I can think of REFUSES to acknowledge that we have problems. I have literally had administrators tell me that “we don’t have a drug problem here in SLO County”, or “we don’t have the homeless problems other counties do”. I mean, I guess if you wear wine colored glasses and don’t go outside your gated community this might seem true, but IT IS HAPPENING.

SLO County doesn’t have enough medical staff for the MH units, so they cannot open enough beds for the community. The mentally ill must go to the jail then. There are plenty of deputies, but OBVIOUSLY they are not trained in patient care. There is NO dignity in stripping an already traumatized patient nude and strapping them to a chair for 2 DAYS.

5 million dollars was a BARGAIN for SLO County to have to pay out. I am devastated for this family. We have been led to believe that when our loved ones go to seek treatment, they will be treated in a certain manner- you know, with dignity and love. This young man was treated worse than an animal, and his father will forever have to think about his son’s last hours of suffering.

So, tell your political leaders how you want your $$ spent. Do you want more bicycle cops? Do you want more substations at wealthy golf courses of the elderly? Do you want your fellow man/womankind to be treated humanely if they need mental health care? It’s really up to you and me to keep on putting pressure on those who are making these decisions….

“” There are plenty of deputies, but OBVIOUSLY they are not trained in patient care. There is NO dignity in stripping an already traumatized patient nude and strapping them to a chair for 2 DAYS. “”

If I hear one more person suggest this death is the result of a lack of training in “patient care,” I’m going to start TYPING IN ALL CAPS!!!

How much training does it take to understand that 2 days in the chair is too long? How many lay people, with no medical training understand that on long airplane flights they should get up and walk around in order to avoid Deep Vein Thrombosis?

How many High School grads with no medical training can comprehend instructions that come with the Devil’s Chair that say limbs should be moved every two hours?

It’s not lack of training! It’s cruelty! It’s lack of basic human compassion. It’s a result of viewing the public (serfs) as the unwashed enemy. It’s a symptom of being above the law, being paid by serfs to abuse, fine, incarcerate and use deadly force against serfs.

No amount of training can fix this. These people were trained by the way….but cruelty and disregard for human life is a deep, character flaw that can’t be “trained’ out of a person.

If anyone thinks spending more money and hiring more sociopaths, getting more restraint chairs and night vision goggles and armored urban assault vehicles, or panga boat interceptors will improve the way police operate, they are grossly mistaken!


Throwing more of our money at these people will not help one little bit.

Cops don’t need more training. We, the People are the ones who need training! We’re the ones who tolerate this crap, finance it, lament when something goes wrong, and then pay even more for even greater abuse! We, the People need training in how to be good citizens. We need to learn again how government is supposed to SERVE us, not abuse us.

We, the People need training in how to reign in our government and their thugs. Police are well trained. They’re not in trouble. They’re not being tortured to death…..

I have known Carty for over 25 years , I think he would rather have his son then 5 Mil. its tough when families deal with Mental health problems, it wares on them.. In some cases families throw their hands up … In any case the sheriff dept . did it … someone needs to be fired..

I say heads should roll, someone screwed up! big time ..

Screw the five million. If it was my son, I would want the heads of those punks that left him shackled along with Parkinson.