Another man dies at Santa Barbara County Jail

November 1, 2019


A 23-year-old Lompoc man whom guards found unresponsive in his cell died Thursday morning in the Santa Barbara Main Jail.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office is calling the death of Isaiah Joey Johnson an apparent suicide. However, sheriff’s officials have not released any details about the manner in which Johnson died.

Jail guards found Johnson unresponsive in his cell at 11:15 a.m., according to the sheriff’s office. Custody deputies and jail medical staff immediately began performing lifesaving measures and continued until firefighters and paramedics arrived.

Responders pronounced Johnson dead at 11:50 a.m.

Johnson had been in custody since Oct. 20, when he was arrested by Lompoc police for having two outstanding warrants and providing false information to a peace officer.

One warrant was for a violation of probation, burglary and using an ID with the intent to defraud. The other warrant was for failing to appear in court, providing false ID to a peace officer and possession of drug paraphernalia, according to the sheriff’s office.

The county coroner’s office is conducting an investigation to determine the cause and manner of Johnson’s death.

Johnson’s death marks the third time an inmate has died following an incident in Santa Barbara County Jail this year.

In April, a 62-year-old man, who was in a wheelchair and appeared to be ill, died a couple days after being taken into custody for failing to register as a sex offender. Then in June, a 47-year-old man died at the hospital days after what sheriff’s officials also called an apparent suicide attempt in the county jail.

Additionally in August, multiple Santa Barbara County Jail inmates overdosed on opioids. One inmate collapsed amid the opioid overdose, though none died.


So I’m genuinely wondering if three dead inmates, each at their respected ages; would have suffered the same statistical average of dying when not in custody? How many people total in Santa Barbara county die of suicide, attempted suicide, overdose, etc., etc. I’m not making any excuses for these deaths, but also wondering if media hype makes it seem more severe than it is. Jail doesn’t offer you a place where you should be afforded the assurance of greater safety and greater security than you would receive as a free person. So given it’s location within Santa Barbara County, does the jail have a statically higher rate of death by these various causes than does the communities surrounding it (factor in population)? If jail is supposed to offer greater protection from fellow humans, natural and unnatural causes; then perhaps we need to model a hotel or two with jail like amenities. What a great selling point for Hilton: “Come stay the weekend with free food and a free room. Guaranteed safer than any other hotel in town.”