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.