San Luis Obispo County will pay $5 million to settle a lawsuit over a jail inmate who died in custody after he was restrained in a chair for nearly two days.
Andrew Holland, 36, died in January from a blood clot in his lung shortly after he was released from a chair he’d been strapped to for 46 hours. Holland suffered from schizophrenia, and the Sheriff’s Office has said it does not have proper facilities for people suffering from mental health issues.
On Thursday, Sharon and Carty Holland, Andrew’s parents, alongside Paula Canny, the family’s attorney, spoke out for the first time publicly during a press conference.
“He is a human of value to his family, to his community, to all of us and he was completely dehumanized by the sheriff’s department,” Canny said.
Canny said during his final minutes in a glass isolation cell, Holland was gasping for breath and no one did anything to help him.
In a press release from SLO County Counsel, it states, “He (Andrew) was also under observation and monitored approximately every 15 minutes by jail staff under the guidance of medical and mental health professionals. After he was released from the chair on January 22, 2017, he was under direct observation and soon became unresponsive. Custody deputies and medical staff tried unsuccessfully to revive him.”
Canny disagrees with how the Sheriff’s Office describes Holland’s final minutes.
“It is unbelievable to me that after spending months working with the county to effectuate change remediation, the County nevertheless, engages in complete fantasy in the description of what happened to Andrew Holland,” she said.
Canny says there’s video from the jail detailing the hours leading up to Holland’s death. KSBY put in a public records request to obtain that video from the Sheriff’s Office.
“After reading this, I urge and support everybody to make a public records request to attain that video. It is a public record,” Canny said.
However, Canny acknowledges the changes the county has already implemented within the jail system.
- Discontinued use of restraint chair
- Restricted amount of time in safety cells
- A new place for inmates who are incompetent to stand trial
- Changed Psychiatric Health Facility protocol to promptly accept inmates with declining mental health
- Made medical forms easier for families to submit online
- Increased observation of medically and mentally ill inmates
- Increased collaboration
- Increased training for deputies, medical and mental health staff at County Jail
- Formed Sheriff’s Mental Health Task Force
You can see the full list and details of those changes at the end of this article.
For those changes, the family says they are grateful; however, it does not bring back their son.
“No one else should have to die like our son died,” Carty Holland said.
“He was a wonderful son, he was bright and funny, loving. He was a loving son, a loving brother,” Sharon Holland said.
Corban Holland, Andrew’s brother, also spoke. He detailed how his dad tried to get Holland the medication he needed but was unsuccessful. A few weeks later, Andrew would die in custody.
“If somebody with that much power doesn’t do their job, they’re out,” Corban said.
The Holland family is now looking for a change in leadership.
"We don’t wish any ill on Sheriff Parkinson’s person-hood,” Carty said. “But the ineptness, the incompetency, I think the manly thing to do is resign."
"It needs to be someone who understands the need for real reform within that jail and it doesn’t come from Sheriff Parkinson," Sharon said.
The County Counsel sent this statement on behalf of the Sheriff following the press conference:
“Sheriff Parkinson is as saddened as anyone over the death of Andrew Holland. He is focused and directing his energy to assure that changes and improvements continue to be made so that this type of incident doesn’t happen again.”
In the grieving process, the Holland family will use their settlement money to help others by starting the nonprofit, The Andrew Holland Foundation, which will “seek to educate and enlighten policymakers, officials, and the public about the plight of mentally ill patients and their families by sharing Holland’s personal experience and the experience of trained professionals, psychiatrists, psychologists, physicians, lawyers, and social workers.”