SLO County Sheriff releases statement on Andrew Holland’s death

Posted at 4:48 PM, Mar 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-17 19:48:39-04

The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office released a statement Saturday afternoon after a video was published showing the final moments of San Luis Obispo County Jail inmate’s life.

The video, obtained by the San Luis Obispo Tribune, purportedly shows Andrew Holland, a schizophrenic, harming himself. He’s then restrained naked in a chair for 46 hours before being let out and moved to another cell.

Within minutes of being untied, Holland appears to lose consciousness and dies.

After the video release, protesters gathered outside the San Luis Obispo County Courthouse, calling for the resignation of Sheriff Ian Parkinson.

You can read the full statement from the Sheriff’s Office below:

Human life is precious. Jail regulations are intended to protect both inmates and staff from harm and injury. The Andrew Holland case was no exception.

As a matter of record, on January 20, 2017 (a Friday), Andrew Holland was serving a 2-year sentence at the County Jail for a crime of violence.   Mr. Holland had a long history of violence and mental illness.  He had voluntarily stopped  taking  his  medication. Medical  and  jail  staff  observed  Holland repeatedly striking himself with his fists and had bloodied his face.

The Sheriff’s Office contacted County Mental Health multiple times requesting that Mr. Holland be transferred to the Mental Health facility for treatment.  The Mental Health Department refused to accept him, claiming that they were at “capacity.” It was later determined that their claim was untrue and Mental Health could have taken custody of Mr. Holland for treatment. Two doctors, one from Mental Health and one from Public Health, conferred about the Holland case on that  Friday  night and refused  to  have him transferred to  the Mental  Health  facility for  treatment. They also failed to adopt a plan to involuntarily sedate the inmate.

The Sheriff’s Office had no alternative other than to place Mr. Holland in restraints.Use of restraints is strictly regulated by a six-page set of rules about every aspect of this process. Citizens of our County and especially all inmates have every right to expect that the Sheriff’s Office will follow these rules whenever restraints are used.  The Sheriff’s Office followed these rules at all times during this incident. In accordance with the rules, the entire process was  videotaped and careful logs  were  kept concerning  every  step in the process. Any claims that the rules about use of restraints were not followed by the Sheriff’s Office, are completely false.

While Mr.  Holland was restrained, the Sheriff’s Office asked Mental Health for authorization to forcibly medicate the inmate so that he could be removed from the restraint chair.  The Sheriff’s Office does not have the legal authority to involuntarily sedate an inmate.The Mental Health Department refused to classify this situation as “an emergency” which would have permitted involuntary sedation.  This decision was a failure of the mental health system.   

The large legal settlement against the County with the Holland family came from the medical malpractice insurance of County Mental Health; it was not based on any wrong-doing of the Sheriff’s Office.

For several years before this incident the Sheriff’s Office had requested that the County provide authority to allow mental health staff at the County Jail to involuntarily  medicate  violent  inmates.   Following  this  incident, the Sheriff’s Office  requested, and the  County  approved, the  hiring  of a Chief Medical Officer (CMO) to serve exclusively at the County Jail; which finally gives the Sheriff’s Office CMO authority to sedate violent inmates.

The Sheriff’s Office and the County have been and will remain focused on effecting positive change on mental health issues in our community.