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VIDEO: Deputies Laugh at Mentally Ill Inmate Held for 46 Hours in Restraint Chair

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Jay Syrmopoulos is a geopolitical analyst, freethinker, and ardent opponent of authoritarianism. He is currently a graduate student at the University of Denver pursuing a masters in Global Affairs and holds a BA in International Relations. Jay's writing has been featured on both mainstream and independent media - and has been viewed tens of millions of times.

San Luis Obispo, CA — Chilling jailhouse footage captured an inmate as he writhed on the floor, lost consciousness and subsequently died after being bound naked in a restraint chair for 46 consecutive hours, as California sheriff’s deputies at the San Luis Obispo County Jail looked on, with some occasionally laughing.

The newly released video stands in contrast to the version of events provided by county officials, as the video clearly shows that Andrew Holland was not “found unconscious and unresponsive” nor “under the continual care of a physician,” as noted in official reports about the Holland’s death.

Holland died while at the California jail on Jan. 22, 2017, nearly one hour after being released following close to two full days strapped naked to a restraint chair, according to a review of “more than 100 hours of jail surveillance footage” as reported by The Tribune of San Luis Obispo. Holland’s cause of death was ruled as “natural” by the county medical examiner, citing a pulmonary embolism due to a blood clot in his leg that traveled to his lung.

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According to a report in the New York Post:

Holland, 36, had schizophrenia since his early 20s and was incarcerated on and off over the years, usually for minor offenses. He was taken into custody in 2015 on charges of battery, resisting an officer and probation violations. He was strapped into the chair after repeatedly hitting himself.

The video posted on The Tribune’s website shows sheriff’s deputies periodically entering his cell to rotate his arms and legs and offer him food and water. Strapped to the chair, he is unable to use a nearby toilet.

County policy requires rotating a restrained inmate’s extremities every 1 ½ to 2 ½ hours to prevent blood clots that can lead to a fatal embolism.

In an email to The Tribune, San Luis Obispo County Administrative Officer Wade Horton called the footage “extremely painful to watch.”

“What happened to Andrew Holland was a tragedy that impacts our entire community,” Horton told The Tribune. “Although we can’t bring Andrew back, our county has made and continues to make changes in response to this terrible event.”

Holland’s family received a $5 million settlement from the county in July of 2017, which it is now using to form an advocacy nonprofit for mentally ill individuals caught in the criminal justice system.

The Tribune reported that San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson refused to say if any county employee had been disciplined in relation to Holland’s death, but acknowledged in  August 2017 that the county held some responsibility for Holland’s death.

“We had hope that his life would improve, but on January 22nd of this year, our son Andrew died a brutal and tortured death at the hands of the custodial staff at San Luis Obispo County jail,” Holland’s mother, Sharon, told reporters last July.

A statement released on March 17th by the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office pointed to the role of County Mental Health in the incident. The statement read in part:

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,” the statement continued. “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.”

The Tribune editorial board noted in a March 16 editorial that “We agree the Psychiatric Health Facility failed in its duty, but remember, it was the correctional staff that maintained custody of Holland, as the video shows. It was the correctional staff that looked on as Holland was kept restrained in a chair for 46 hours, even though multiple sources say that under no circumstances should an inmate be restrained in a chair longer than 10 hours, and then only when the inmate is under the direct supervision of medical personnel.”

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