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DOJ to investigate medical, mental health care at SLO County Jail

Posted at 1:27 PM, Nov 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-08 02:24:04-05

The U.S. Department of Justice will be conducting an independent investigation into the medical and mental health care of inmates in the San Luis Obispo County Jail.

While this follows the deaths of several inmates over the past few years, county officials say the investigation does not focus on any single event.

According to the county, if deficiencies are identified during the investigation, the Department of Justice will provide technical assistance.

Since the death of inmate Andrew Holland, who passed away after being confined in a restraint chair for nearly two days, several changes have been made at the jail, including the hiring of a new Chief Medical Officer, contracting out medical and mental health services, and the pending opening of a mental health unit.

In 2017, San Luis Obispo County settled a lawsuit over Holland’s death for $5 million.

His death, and the death of another inmate a few months later, prompted the sheriff to call for an independent FBI investigation into the possibility of civil rights violations at his own jail.

The FBI told KSBY News that the case is still pending.

In a statement released Wednesday, Sheriff Ian Parkinson said, “We welcome the (DOJ) investigation and any assistance and guidance to further improve areas identified by the Department of Justice.”

A sheriff’s office spokesperson added, “We will be working with the Justice Department during this civil review, just as we have with the FBI’s criminal inquiry. We have made many significant positive changes in the way we deal with the health and safety of inmates in our care. We look forward to any recommendations the Justice Department may have to help us further improve jail operations.”

KSBY News reached out to the Holland family for their reaction to the DOJ investigation. Sharon Holland, Andrew’s mother, said, “Carty (Holland) and I welcome this. Federal intervention is necessary. There have been two more deaths in the SLO (County) jail since Andrew’s death. The county, for all its talk, has not reformed. We are grateful for the work of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and hopeful that federal oversight will bring about the much-needed change.”

Related coverage:
San Luis Obispo County responds to lawsuit filed after inmate death
Wife of inmate who died in jail sues San Luis Obispo County
Mother of inmate who committed suicide speaks out about mental health treatment at SLO County Jail