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.


OK, the supervisor’s have agreed to a settlement of $ 5,000,000.00. But what have they done to insure this never happens again? A payout or OUR tax dollars due to THEIR dereliction of duty is not the answer. Real, tangible changes have to be made to be made to the county system or NOTHING will ever change.


after jail guards left him strapped in a chair for more than 46 hours.


wow, 46 hours. Straight. No water, no food, no bathroom. Naked.

Yup, that’s torture.


The headline should read “The Taxpayers Will Pay 5 Million Dollars”.


100%. We pay them to abuse us and if one of us wins a law suit, we pay for that too.

Serfs and nobles.


And also add, that no one who is really responsible will be held responsible and that Sheriff Parkinson will not accept responsibility or hold his staff responsible and that all their salaries and pensions will be intact, in fact many of Sheriff Parkinson’s staff have already received raises. Pubic sector life goes on, why should the death of a serf worry them, nothing will happen to the chosen ones.


So tragic, and also so true. I hope that everyone involved in the torture of this poor kid is held responsible. This is a crime which resulted in death. No one should be above the law.


You and I are not above the law. But police, by definition, are above the law. That’s the main problem here.

Ranchers have a different set of rules than the cattle they manage. Military folks who occupy hostile, foreign countries have a different set of rules than the people they have conquered.

Police have a different set of rules than those they rule over. We can’t speed….they can. We can’t drive drunk…..they can. We can’t brandish firearms….they can. We can’t lie to police….but they are taught to lie to us in order to trap us!

We cannot commit crimes in the course of our daily work….they can and do. All the time.

We cannot shoot and kill people who make us nervous….they can. We cannot park anywhere we’d like….they can. I could go on and on!

The fact of the matter is that they live in another world from us Serfs and are acting in a predictable manner… Noblemen have always acted towards we serfs.

. Nothing new under the sun.


Hello???? This inmate was Court ordered to be taken to the SLO County Inpatient Unit because he met criteria; he was a danger to self and he was gravely disabled. Dr Daisy Allano REFUSED his admittance. She is the one with blood on her hands. She should be held accountable not the jail staff or Sheriff Parkinson. 5 million should come out of her pocket. She should lose her license to practice as a physician. Because Dr Allano violated a Court order a man is dead. Period.


Yes…perhaps she should be held accountable. But did she know that they would torture Holland at the jail? Did she know that by refusing Holland’s admittance he would be tortured to death?

I don’t think so. Again, had he not been tortured, he would still be alive, despite Dr. Daisy’s refusal of admittance.

Why is it so hard to accept the fact that our local jail kills people? Because we want to believe they’re “good guys?” Is that it?


Andrew Holland’s death is not an isolated incident for the county jail. Sure, he might be the only inmate to die of natural causes (drunk driving coroner’s opinion in the autopsy) as a result of being strapped into the Devil’s Chair….but he’s not the only person to die unnecessarily in the jail.

If a physician made a small mistake that resulted in the death of a patient, it would be ruled malpractice. If it happened over and over, the physician would have their license to practice revoked.

If the nurses and staff who worked for the physician were also complicit in the death of several patients and none of them spoke up or questioned the physician’s “orders” they would also be legally responsible and would lose their licenses, etc.

But when the sheriff and his staff of nurses torture a mentally ill person to death, dumping him naked on the floor and leaving him to die……the taxpayers must pay! Parkinson will keep his job, get his raise, get his pension, double dip, etc. The workers at the jail—while not being as richly compensated as their chief, will also get their raises, pensions, etc.

I have one question for the people of SLO county:

Do you want these types of people—-those who show cold indifference and cruelty to disabled people—-to carry guns and enforce the law on you? After all, that’s what they did to Andrew Holland?

Do you trust people who can treat another human being in this way to be honest and truthful when it comes to enforcing laws on you?

I guess that was two questions……


Very sad story as reported. Although not justifying the actions there are always 2 sides to a story. What actions generated the use of this chair? What is the workload of the jail employees? What is the ratio of deputies to inmates? Has the BOS budgeted the funds necessary to operate the jail in an efficient manner?

The Sheriff has always been a target to many but at the same time he attempts to do a job with the tools that are provided him. With the increase in drug abuse in our county and elsewhere there is an increase with people being incarcerated who have abused drugs. Many of these people, while under the influence, can become very violent and at times it may take several, yes several people to restrain them.

There is plenty of blame to go around regarding this but let’s hope that the BOS will really address this problem and find a remedy to correct it. Too bad they didn’t spend that $5 million, probably insurance, on the the problems that exist at the jail.


@rukidding … so you write “The Sheriff has always been a target to many but at the same time he attempts to do a job with the tools that are provided him”

R U talking about quarter million dollar panga towing boat that never gets used. Just think if that money could have spent in the jail for mental health services. THINK ABOUT IT ?


Why should they spend any money at the jail, rukidding?

Seriously, why should they change a thing? They don’t care that people die. Their treatment of Andrew Holland is clear proof of that. They aren’t bothered in conscience or through legal action if they torture someone to death….why should they change a thing?

5 million? Yeah…that’s not THEIR money.

You opined that “The Sheriff has always been a target to many but at the same time he attempts to do a job with the tools that are provided him.” So, you’re saying that the only tools he has to use are a cruel, untrained, incompetent jail medical staff and a restraint chair?

Do you think those are the only “tools” he has to do his job? Holland would have survived if was made to wax the hull of the Panga boat interceptor. He could have been allowed to stay in the padded cell….naked….and given food and water and he’d still be alive.

He could have been taken to the ER and given his meds. There are lots of “tools” other than torture and cruelty for the sheriff to use.

Just what are you trying to say?

I’m sick and tired of the mental and moral gymnastics required to justify police actions in this county. We, The People are being victimized physically and financially as a result of these sick, sociopaths with guns and badges. And you want to excuse them?

Stockholm syndrome?


First let’s find out why he was in the chair? What led up to that? I hope that when you say “they” that you are referring to the food chain to operate the jail efficiently. I think everyone here can see that the system is broken and needs repair and that has been known for some time. The bottom line is that the politicians, BOS, are to blame for this, they hold the purse strings. But like the homeless situation, mental illness and those incarcerated, most of these folks don’t vote so you can figure what is the causes for this.


rekidding, you said: “” The bottom line is that the politicians, BOS, are to blame for this, they hold the purse strings. ”

So, it’s your contention that if the Board of Supervisors spent more money Andrew Holland would not have been tortured to death? Really? It’s simply due to a lack of funds that the jail staff tossed out guidelines for use of the chair, kept him in the thing for two days and then just dumped him out on the floor?

More money would have fixed that?

I think if we gave them more money, they’d just buy another restraint chair and they could do two at a time. I base this opinion on historical facts, namely what they’ve done with money in the past.

This has nothing to do with lack of funding…it has everything to do with lack of basic human compassion.

Quit trying to make excuses for those who rule us.


No excuses. No body can do their job if they do not have the tools. Mental health denied care due to what. Manpower at the jail? They have an overwhelming job supervising hundreds of people, mostly with problems, with a handful of people. I don’t know what line of work you may be in but if you didn’t have the sufficient tools needed you too might make errors.


Just as an add on. It’s too bad that you couldn’t spend some time at the jail and get spit on, urinated on, fecus thrown at you, assaulted and verbally harassed and then have a nice day.


rukidding said, “”

07/27/2017 at 8:26 am

No excuses. No body can do their job if they do not have the tools.””

So, using your logic, if my contractor show up to work on my house and he doesn’t have one of his tools, he can only resort to torture?

If I don’t have every “tool” I’d like to have to use at my job I can strap someone into a chair for two days?

Sir! They had plenty of “tools!” One of them is called a restraint chair. The other is the “drunk tank.” Both were used.

Perhaps if they had FEWER tools—–like NO RESTRAINT CHAIR—-and they just shoved him face first into the drunk tank, he’d still be alive. Not perhaps…he WOULD still be alive. The problem isn’t lack of tools! The problem is cruelty and indifference to human life, brought about by being above the law and paid very well for enforcing the laws on people who are not above the law.

As to spending time in jail getting spit upon and all that, are you implying that this jutifies torturing someone to death?

Teachers who work with severely disabled students sometimes have this happen to them. Are you saying it’s OK for them to torture one of their students to death?

What about other jails in other counties? Do their inmates spit less than ours? Is this why the death rate in SLO county’s jail is so high, because our inmates spit and urinate more?

Please answer at least one two of these questions, because I’m pretty sure I speak for a lot of people who wonder how you can apologize for torture because the poor police didn’t have “tools” or were spit upon, etc.

Did Holland spit on them? Or did they punish Holland for the sins of another inmate?



You are hopeless! You need to look at the entire problem and not just the chair. If all of the correct things had been funded adequately this person never would have seen the jail.


The best solution is to hold those “County Employees” who caused the premature avoidable death of a person in their care financially responsible to the family. It teaches these civil servants little to have the rest of us pay their tab for obvious unlawful and immoral actions to the tune of five million in taxpayer dollars. I am certain his parents would agree, rather having their Son than a money award of which not one cent being paid by those responsible for this disgrace which reflects badly on us all…

Jorge Estrada

I too have a special adult son, he is free to make choices as the law provides, his actions are his actions. Should his actions result in this horrific restraint, his possible death would have nothing to do with the restraint, it would be a medical consequence a jail attendant would likely overlook due to his lack of medical training. Sadly, for some, jail is the unfortunate first stop and segregation is provided as needed. A healthy persons can be strapped to a chair for days without death but torture is never appropriate in a civil institution.

Should my son die in this fashion, certainly there would be self inflicted guilt, for what I could have done to have prevented this consequence but the reality is that he has been enabled to be responsible for his actions. As for the jail attended, I can only speculate his grief as nobody working for our County Sheriff (my belief) would intentionally take a life, excepting for an act of self preservation or the preservation of life in their line of duty.

This error, possibly due to a lack of training, historic process and or budgetary constraints has availed a need for change. Not only are we, yes you and me the responsible party, other needs will suffer as a result of this redistribution of funding consequence.


@Jorge …Silly rambling to try and minimize the unethical behavior that occurred. There are good employees and there are bad employees and some that fall in the grey area. There are also good supervisors and bad supervisors. Parkinson is too busy pumping up his public image and he has failed proper oversight on the jail … there in a nutshell is the problem.

Jorge Estrada

I would never try to minimize torcher, physical brutality or any unethical behavior by law enforcement. I just do not have all of the facts and I tend to support law enforcement, a job most want no part of. Yes, a very sad outcome for an adult with issues and obviously should have had medical attention from the get go. I do not default to intentional barbaric behavior as the cause for Holland’s death but yes it is possible. Again change is obviously needed but that does not necessarily mean the removal of the chair. Diapers a robe and a physicians read on the situation sounds to be a reasonable option. There are people that do need to be restrained for the protection of others, including themselves, for a period of time. Over 24 hours without a physicians read seems excessive.


The San Luis Obispo jail death toll has doubled under sheriff Parkinson’s inept rein of terror while the Oklahoma attorney general correctly arrested the sheriff and abusers in their state for the near identical murder of an inmate. Meanwhile my tax dollar is being used to pay the family victimized by Parkinson while Parkinson goes on collecting his bloated salary, free to torture his next victims. At what point if ever is this serial abuser/murderer held accountable for his departments house of horrors? Why is Parkinson allowed to go unchecked with zero oversight when it is apparent to everyone else with a soul it has gotten to a point he is the criminal. Try to imagine just sitting in a normal chair for two days without being able to leave. Now picture this restrained, naked and left like garbage on a cold cement jail floor prohibited by torture happy guards from using the restroom for 48 hours. Textbook definition of torture is use of physical and or psychological pain to control the victim and or fulfill needs of the perpetrator. Research for decades includes the Milgram experiment suggesting under circumstances most people can be encouraged to actively torture others when encouraged to do so by superiors. Parkinson’s inactions have risen to the level of criminal intent. The California Attorney General needs to take action now. At the very least Parkinson should be terminated immediately and investigated for further criminal charges. Again, The death rate under Parkinson has doubled.

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