The County Board of Supervisors all motioned to direct staff to research leads on private companies that could provide medical services to inmates, as well as ways to continue improvements within the county’s psychiatric facilities and behavioral health. In addition, the board is looking to bring back The Stepping Up Initiative, an organization that works to reduce the number of mentally ill patients in jails.
Sheriff’s officials spoke to the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors Tuesday about behavior toward inmates and protocol at the San Luis Obispo County Jail, seven months after the death of 36-year old Andrew Holland.
Sheriff Ian Parkinson talked about several improvements the jail has made since Holland’s death, including the discontinued use of a restraint chair. Holland died shortly after he left the restraint chair he’d been sitting in for 46 hours.
"We absolutely have responsibility in the loss of Andrew Holland," Parkinson said, adding he hopes the Holland family could find forgiveness following the death of their loved one.
Parkinson says he’s looking at the system to keep history from repeating itself by not letting any inmate suffer a death like Andrew did.
"If it takes me leaving my house at three in the morning and coming down and picking that person up, and driving them straight to mental health and saying this will not happen, then I will do that," Parkinson said.
His presentation was followed by one from County Mental Health Director Jeff Hamm, who says there was insufficient communication the weekend of Holland’s death between the jail and county mental health.
He said that weekend the beds at the psychiatric health facility were full on Friday, but by Sunday they were reduced to 11.
"He could’ve gone there earlier in the weekend, and as I indicated, he should have," Hamm said.
Now, PHF has made more room for mentally ill inmates.
"We essentially expanded the capacity of our limited, 16-bed PHF by making a conscious commitment to move people from the PHF to other facilities to make room for a person who is experiencing that kind of behavior in the jail," Hamm said.
Following presentations by Hamm and Parkinson, the board took public comment.
"I’m here to support Ian Parkinson," one man said.
Another saying, "Sheriff Parkinson is an outstanding member of the community."
Others weren’t there to show their support of the Sheriff, but to demand more answers to Holland’s case. Particularly asking the Sheriff to show the surveillance video from the jail that details Holland’s death.
"That video should be made public, and if it’s not, I will go to my dying day to make sure it is," on man said.
Another woman, who is a relative to Andrew added, "we’ll never be silent, we’ll never be able to stand down."
Tave Holland, Andrew’s cousin said his loved one’s death goes beyond policy at a jail.
"That was not a systemic problem, you have a human problem with your staff," Tave said.
Corban Holland, Andrew’s older brother says he was happy to see such support for helping the mentally ill, but he and the rest of his family are still looking for a different outcome.
"We’re really wanting the tape of what happened to be released so that people can really look at that and say was it a systemic problem, was it procedures?" Corban said.
Additionally, he said his family still stands behind their hopes that Sheriff Parkinson will resign in order for the jail to improve.
The board will meet again on Sept. 12 to further discuss changes that were discussed Tuesday night.