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.


This death is a symptom of (at least) a larger problem — how we deal with mental health issues in this county/state/country. While lack of training and/or supervision of jail personnel is obviously part of the problem, there is some validity in the claim that they are not qualified to be handling mentally ill people like Mr. Holland. If they can’t even do their job to their own standards, why should we be expecting them to handle mentally ill people on top of the normal jail guard duties? Mentally ill people need special care and they aren’t likely to get it at a jail no matter what we would like to think.

The reason that mentally ill people end up at the jail is because we lack enough resources to treat them elsewhere and we don’t want them roaming the streets hurting themselves (and occasionally others). We need to fund County Mental Health to the point where they can handle the volume of people that need it. (We also need to watch to see those funds are spent wisely but that’s a separate issue.) I don’t know where that funding is going to be coming from but a lack of $5M settlements in the future should be a good start. Maybe selling a boat bobbing uselessly in Morro Bay harbor could get the ball rolling. Not paying people to maintain and operate the boat should be good for at least 1 new position in County Mental Health too.


Honestly, it seems the entirety of our government lacks training and supervision. They certainly lack accountability.


The one thing they don’t lack, outrageous salaries, benefits and pensions.


I think you are mistaken. Yes, there is a problem with how we deal with mental issues, but that’s not the real problem *here.* The real problem here is the mentality of the people in our public safety community. This shouldn’t have happened to *anyone* regardless of their mental condition.


Don’t be a criminal and you wont end up in jail. Social justice liberals.


That is seriously your answer? If someone commits a crime– of any degree– they deserve to be tied down to a chair for 46 hours? They deserve to sit naked, on display, in their own urine and feces? They deserve to receive no medical treatment as they gasp for breath and die of a massive clot blocking blood flow in and out of their lungs? Zoiebowie, people like YOU are the problem.

I have never committed a crime and don’t anticipate ever being in jail. But i still care that humans are treated like humans. I still hold law enforcement accountable to do their job sanely and legally.


Keyboard warrior. Anonymity your only strength. congrats.


Let me guess Zoie, you must work for the sheriff’s dept. at the county jail….right?


Charges should be filed against the officers responsible, but at the very least they need to be taught how to properly do their job.



Law Enforcement Officers are taught emphatically that their own safety is number one. Nothing is more important than the safety of the Law Enforcement Officer. Not you, not me, not any member of the non-LEO class of people. Officer safety is number one.<—–this is what is taught on day one, day two….and every other day of cop training school.

So, in this case, no officers were injured. They were all safe. So they did their job properly, which is why none of them will be fired, or even written up. They're safe!

Sure a lowly serf died. So? We, the People are responsible for paying his family AND paying the officer's salaries.

We need to be taught how to properly do OUR jobs…..not the cops. They do just fine. We're the idiots and cowards who put up with this crap.

Step one: all settlements and lawsuits for police brutality/miscounduct are paid out of the department's pension funds for their officers. If they want to beat the crap out of an unarmed public and torture people, they should lose their pensions!

If they don't they'll have more money.


Taught common sense and an ounce of compassion? Wont happen.


IN a case very much like this one, the law enforcement community in Oklahoma did the right thing.

It would be really helpful if the same level of accountability was done in this case.

When is Dan Dow and his office going to do the right thing?

Based on their past performance, the answer is NEVER.


So far Dan Dow has been shown to be just more of the same as before, useless.


It also seems the Grand Jury in the case you linked actually has some power and can hand down indictments and until we change our toothless Grand Jury here nothing will happen. That will never happen because the same people here who would be able to give our Grand Jury power don’t want too because it could mean they themselves could be looked at by the new empowered Grand Jury and face some serious problems. Can we the people, without any help from those in power, vote to create a Grand Jury with power?, we need too.


The grand jury in that Oklahoma case was apparently a criminal grand jury. The SLO County grand jury you are apparently referring to is the civil grand jury established in each California county each year as provided by state law.

Those are completely different bodies with different powers. California does also provide for creation of criminal grand juries to review and act on criminal matters, and that would be the type of grand jury that would address the county jail matter that you are concerned with.

The county civil grand jury each year is charged with review of the county jail, but generally speaking does not have the authority to issue criminal charges. That would need to be handled by a separate criminal grand jury.


Then why have the Grand Jury we have? They spend time, energy and money to investigate something, find several problems, write a report saying there needs to be changes, the entity they investigated gets the report, disagrees with the report and says everything is okay and they are not going to change a thing, and the Grand Jury moves on to their next investigation and the cycle continues. A Grand Jury without the power to force changes is an expensive waste of the taxpayers time, but I guess it makes some people feel better.


Once again, government screws up and we pay. $5/hr for parking downtown next?


There’s really no question in my mind that there was mistreatment. Probably many more cases too where someone doesn’t die.

I fail to see how a payout that large helps anyone.


Really? What’s the value you’d put on your loved one’s life?


I think many people may be missing buick’s point. It is not that the potential monetary value of the victim is an issue, rather it is settling for a large sum that the offenders will have (essentially) ZERO liability for.

For instance, if you hit someone with your car, but if people in the next town over are forced to pay damages for something you did, are you AT ALL incentivized to stop hitting things with your car?

In other words, how is the payout going to eliminate the unprofessional, cowardly behavior that was exhibited in the jail?

I believe that was buick’s point. I could be wrong.


Cowardly; that’s the makeup of your community. Too damn scared that you’ll lose something if you actually do something tangible to change this kind of shit!

You’ll bitch about the money, sure! You’ll bitch about your council members, sure! But will you actually hold anyone accountable? Fuck no! Know why? Because it was after all just another mentally ill person who suffered all of this, not you!!!

I hope all of you pay out your conservative ass noses! There’s more comin’, y’all know that, right?!! This opens the door for all kinds of legal moves. Remember Mr. Mobley? Probably not, but you will. If he isn’t already pursuing legal remedies this will, SHOULD, provoke him to do so!

Mr. Estrada! Your tendency to “support law enforcement” is the predominant “tendency” of your community; you just have the balls to say so. As wrong as it is it’s at least honest. That tendency has gotten this community where it’s at now, it caused the death of Andrew and it will cause harm to others, up to and including more deaths. There is ample evidence out there to support not giving the benefit of the doubt to law enforcement and this community only pays lip service to that, nothing more.

Bitch, bitch, bitch ya bunch of bitches!


“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.”

C’mon Debbie, Lynn, John, Bruce & Adam! Set aside issues like homelessness, marijuana taxes and other non-urgent stuff and focus on this draconian situation at our county jail before MORE LAWSUITS paid for by the TAXPAYERS are levied.

11 deaths in six is unacceptable. You’re supposed to be “supervisors” so start supervising Sheriff Ian. He must be held accountable!


P.S. I appreciate CCN so much but this issue has risen to the level of national media needing to be involved. 20/20, 60 Minutes, etc.


Where is Attorney General Xavier Becerra? Oh, yeah, I forgot, he is more worried about prosecuting grandmas for electioneering…