Report on SLO County Jail details abuse, violence

September 1, 2021

An inmate held in a special type of restrictive housing at the SLO County Jail.


A new report on the San Luis Obispo County Jail chronicles abuses ranging from punching inmates to denying medical care — resulting in jailhouse deaths and miscarriages — as it details accounts of brutality, violations of civil rights and failures by county administrators to properly train deputies or report use of force.

The Aug. 31 report marks the culmination of the U.S. Department of Justice’s three year probe into civil rights violations at the county jail. Investigators determined county staff violated the constitutional rights of inmates through the use of excessive force and their failures to provide constitutionally adequate medical and mental health care.

Between January 2012 and June 2020, 16 inmates died while in jail custody, many under questionable circumstances.

On Jan. 22, 2017, Andrew Holland, 36, died of a pulmonary embolism in his lung after being strapped in a restraint chair, with his legs and arms shackled, for more than 46 hours, which was exclusively reported by CalCoastNews following a year long investigation into allegations of mistreatment of inmates.

Ten days earlier, a judge ordered that Holland be involuntarily medicated  and that he be sent to a psychiatric facility, but county staff failed to comply.

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. He spent his last minutes writhing on the floor of a cell while deputies  watched him through the clear glass cell door.

Shortly after Holland’s death, the FBI launched a criminal investigation into a series of deaths at the county jail. That investigation appears to be ongoing.

In Oct. 2018, the Department of Justice opened the civil rights investigation that found the county has failed to provide adequate medical and mental health care to inmates, to prevent excessive use of force, to stop subjecting inmates to prolonged periods of restrictive housing and to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The report details specific cases of alleged violations of civil rights. These allegations include cases of spraying inmates who are restrained with pepper spray, pulling inmates by their hair, slamming inmates against walls and placing inmates in restraints for long periods of time.

The following are cases of excessive force as described in the DOJ report:

“In Dec. 2018, AK (inmate’s names are withheld) yelled at deputies while secured in a caged area. Three deputies unlocked the door, and AK calmly exited. One deputy grabbed the unresisting AK from behind and pushed him headfirst into a wall, causing him to bleed. The deputy lied about the force in the incident report, stating that AK pulled away and “fell forward” toward the wall.”

“In May 2018, AM was allegedly kicking his cell door. Deputies opened his cell and lifted him by his elbows after cuffing his hands behind his back and dragged him at least 30 feet to a wheelchair. There was no documented reason for staff’s failure to bring him his wheelchair instead of dragging him to the chair.”

“AO allegedly cursed at two deputies from inside his cell. The senior  deputy grabbed the prisoner by the neck and repeatedly shoved him against a wall and to the  ground even though AO exited his cell with his hands behind his back. The senior deputy then
pulled AO onto his feet and escorted him in the “chicken wing” hold while handcuffed.

“The senior deputy then inserted his right thumb and applied pressure to the soft tissue under AO’s jaw while waiting for a gate to open even though AO was handcuffed and complying. Over a dozen custody staff observed and followed after the senior deputy as he escorted AO in this fashion — apparently abandoning their posts — but no one intervened.”

“In a Dec. 2018 incident, a group of six deputies participated in a takedown, with at  least three using their bodies to pin AU face down on the ground. Then, after the deputies appeared to have AU under control on the ground, one of the deputies slowly took out his pepper spray and — about one foot from AU’s face — sprayed it in his eyes.”

A SLO County Jail inmate in the WRAP on Jan. 17, 2018.

“In one Dec. 2016 incident, a total of 11 deputies and two sergeants were involved in a takedown of AV during which they struck him four times, including at least two strikes to the head, to “gain [his] compliance,” and then started to place him in a WRAP, possibly compromising his circulation. After partially restraining AV in the WRAP, the custody staff discovered that he was unconscious and not breathing, necessitating emergency hospitalization.”

In the months following Holland’s death, the county made several pronouncements regarding plans to improve conditions, training and compliance with laws at the jail. But inmates continued to die while staff denied or provided inadequate medical care, according to the report.

The report also describes cases of inadequate medical care including the following:

On April 13, 2017, Kevin Lee McLaughlin, 60, of San Luis Obispo, died in the SLO County Jail of a heart attack. McLaughlin had hypertension, but jail staff failed to provide an adequate “medical evaluation when he entered custody, performed no tests or laboratory examinations or otherwise monitored his condition, and prescribed him with high doses of Ibuprofen, a drug the FDA has warned can lead to heart attacks in people with high blood pressure.

“On the morning of  his death, McLaughlin complained of left shoulder and arm pain, numbness and tingling, clamminess, and left sided chest pain, and yet jail medical staff refused his requests to be sent to the hospital. After noticing that McLaughlin’s breathing was abnormal, a deputy walked away and called medical staff, and did not return for five minutes, at which point McLaughlin stopped breathing and was unresponsive.”

On Nov. 27, 2017, Russell Alan Hammer, 62, who suffered memory issues, died of a deep vein thrombosis after being brought to the jail’s medical facility.

Hammer had Parkinson’s disease and experienced auditory hallucinations and paranoia while in the jail, and was observed eating his own feces, leading the jail to send him to the mental health facility. “On his return to the jail, he was kept in isolation for over two weeks. The jail disregarded his complaints about weight  loss and weakness.”

The report determined inmates are “subjected to a substantial risk of serious harm as a result of inadequate medical care.” Inmates with deadly diseases or major medical issue are often denied medications or treatment. Multiple pregnant inmates suffered miscarriages while county staff denied them adequate medical care.

The following are several examples from the report of failures to provide medications or proper care:

“LL, who was admitted to the jail in April 2019, received no HIV medications during her first week in custody. Then, the jail began providing her only one of the three medications  she had been taking to manage her HIV. This was the only drug she received for the next week before her release, and during that week she did not receive even that drug for three consecutive days. Receiving just one of three HIV medications creates a high likelihood of  developing resistance to that medication, which is extremely dangerous.”

In Feb. 2019, NN “reported abdominal pain and said she had just learned her sexual partner had gonorrhea. She was tested for it, but there was a three-day delay in sending out the labs, and positive results did not come back for five days, when the jail began treating her for gonorrhea. Two days later, the jail conducted a pregnancy test, which came back positive, but she was not scheduled for an obstetrician appointment. Five days later, she reported vaginal bleeding to medical staff, who ordered an obstetric referral two days after that.”

Even though NN was experiencing vaginal bleeding, the obstetric referral was not followed and she miscarried.

Sheriff Ian Parkinson

In its response to the report, the SLO County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the issues and concerns brought forth, but criticized the Department of Justice for “not taking into account the many remedial measures undertaken by the sheriff’s office” during the past three years, according to a press release.

“The sheriff’s office has worked cooperatively with the Department of Justice over the past three years to investigate deficiencies and determine appropriate improvements to ensure our jail facility is fully compliant with federal law,” Sheriff Ian Parkinson said in a press release. “We are pleased with our progress so far and will continue to work diligently to provide a safe and secure jail facility.”

The county has 49 days to comply with at least 45 remedial measures identified in the report, or the U.S. Attorney General may initiate a lawsuit to force the county to correct its deficiencies.

“In listing these remedies, we note that over the course of our investigation the jail has made changes to its personnel, policies, and procedures. We have taken those changes into account, but find they are inadequate to protect prisoners from the harms identified,” according to the report.

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Andrew Holland was extremely sick and suffering from schizophrenia, which rendered him absolutely unable to take care of himself. His illness sent electrical pulses through his brain that caused him to hear voices and see things that were not there and if that were not enough his illness made it impossible for him to not interpret these things as being very real. Knowing this, we as a society, make a very clear choice to treat Andrew Holland as if none of this was happening and if those misfiring synapsis send a message that lead to him breaking a law, we also make the very clear choice to punish him as if it were you and I deciding, with all our faculties in working order to commit a crime. Imagine if we jailed people with diabetes because they cant produce insulin. I know it sounds crazy, but its not all as different from Andrew Hollands disease convincing him to commit a crime as we seem to think.

Im attaching a link of the video of him in jail. A man who is sick and vulnerable first comes into view tied to a chair or gurney and being escorted by half a dozen men dressed in full combat/SWAT gear. Again this is a very sick human being and we are treating him like Hanibal Lechter. He is then tied to a chair for two hours short of as many days, given almost no food or water, and not once allowed to use the bathroom. He is left to sit in his own urine and feces for two days. He is eventually pulled from the chair so they can clean his shit and piss he has been left to wallow in and then dragged out to another cell and left naked on a cement floor with nothing but a blanket.

Officers stood over him as lay naked, only moments from death and did nothing to help him. Right around 7 min 9 second mark you can see two of the officers standing over his dead body and laughing.

He was a sick man and he needed help, not discipline.

If you watch this video, pay attention to how casually the jail employees go about their day like theres nothing unusual about a mentally ill man being bound and gagged to a chair for two days. Long enough to die from it. Sheriff Parkinson built that culture. He should not just lose his job. He needs to go to prison with the rest of the sociopaths. Fuck Ian Parkinson and the rest of the bottom of the barrel lowest rung deputies at the jail.

In checking Transparent California SLO jail correctional officers earn between 100k and 250k .Yes the job description states a much lower pay ,seems that SLO jail officers would want to keep their jobs as they could not obtain a private sector job that pays the same . Another major problem is that some of the jail officers become street deputies and carry with them the jail house mentality which causes even more problems.It would be much more cost effective for the county to have 3 shifts 7 days a week of non sheriff employees to monitor inmate / officers interactions and to report their observations .Those employees though could have their safety jeopardized by reporting facts though

San Luis ambulance pays EMTs 15.50 an hour,medics about 30. A CO makes anywhere from 75k to 200k a year with a pension and benefits. They have a job so much easier than EMS it’s disgusting the amount a CO makes to be a crook, LAZY crooks upholding a corrupt prison enterprise that drains our tax dollars. And Parkinson with blood on his hands makes 275k A YEAR.

Nobody cares what happens in the county jail. The Hollands took the money. Case closed. Move on.

You speak for everybody I guess

Its Jail…not a Marriot….don’t break the law and you won’t have to go there….

Since those officers broke the law they should be in there along side them. Crime is crime right?

Did they break a law?….if so fine lock them up…but you have to show that they broke the law first…maybe hog tying saved injury and lives…when all other means of control are deemed to be too harsh and taken away whats left?….

They have video of these things happening what else do you want? Hog tying someone who’s a danger yes for a limited time. Beating them while hog tied is something else entirely

They do?…I don’t know who they are but like I said if the deputy’s broke any laws prosecute them but thinking bad things should never happen in jail is kind of silly if you ask me….the carnage between inmates is much worse than being constrained for your own safety and the safety of others….

This is why I don’t break laws…jail and prison time is not a picnic and it shouldn’t be….that’s the point isn’t it?….

Bad things shouldn’t happen officers need to keep their hands to themselves. When an inmate attacks a guard he gets more time because he/she committed a crime. Those who are in position of power should be held to the same standard or higher. Think of the charges if an inmate were to get a hold of some handcuffs then handcuff and beat the crap out of a guard. They in case you didn’t glean from the article are the feds and doj. Cameras are everywhere in a jail.

Based on this disturbing report it appears that many inmates go in and acquire “Parkinson’s “..,

Seriously though, I have supported the Sheriff while being concerned about the jail operation. I’d like to give the Sheriff the benefit of the doubt but about the only way that could happen us if there was follow up and surprise inspections and oversight.

Another idea may be to bifurcate the Sheriffs office duties and have a separate “corrections division” managed by a director, warden, etc that answers to the board of supervisors or an oversight board composed of folks who know something about the various aspects of this business.

Anyway, just a thought.

Not sure anyone realizes how difficult and mentally taxing the job is… Really needs to be more support for the employees working at the jail. Inmates, I could care less about.

So beating inmates is ok because they have a difficult and taxing job? If you can’t control yourself probably need to find a different career

These incidences are partly a result of the job, please understand that. Few people are even willing to attempt it, let alone continue it and somehow maintain a happy go lucky positive attitude. More mental health and counseling support would mean less of a toll on the employees, therefore, less of these incidences. I just don’t get how we’re condeming so harshly the people willing to take the job. We should be more understanding.

They committed aggravated assault on restrained inmates. They are criminals period no excuse especially when they are supposed to uphold the law.

Agreed. Jail employees are much in need of mental health support. Preferably well before they are hired, and if not before, due to a faulty screening process, then during their employ, and make it mandatory for continued employment. From the record under Parkinson’s tenure, there’s a greater need for remedial mental health treatment for those outside the prison cells, than for those inside.

Agreed! The reason most inmates are in jail is because of severe behavior problems. Its only natural that they are difficult to deal with. Deputies are not paid enough for the hassles of overseeing this population. Certainly there have been a malicious Deputy working at the SLO County Jail; that’s always wrong.

BS art, CO make disturbing cash, ever see all the lifted trucks and boats round here, CO officers. Google their pay before making lies. Dangerous, they CHOOSE their job and need to be held to the same standard as everyone else.

I foresee slaps on the wrists if anything and retirements with benefits intact