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New Santa Barbara County Jury Report Critical Of Inmate Death; Says Investigation Was Hampered

(Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office photo)

A new Santa Barbara County Grand Jury report looking at the issue of inmate deaths in county custody is extremely critical of the Sheriff’s Office. There have been five Santa Barbara County jail inmate deaths since 2018, including one last week.

The Grand Jury focused on one, a death ruled a suicide in July of last year. The report says while the man was under the influence of alcohol and drugs, Sheriff’s deputies and medical staff missed clear signs he had serious mental health issues.

The Grand Jury says no one checked on his mental health background, and he was put in a cell where he couldn’t be fully monitored. The man hung himself less than a half hour after being put in the cell.

But, the report is even more harsh about efforts to investigate the death. It says the Sheriff’s Office ignored or in some cases refused requests for information related to the case. It says the county’s medical provider also refused to supply key information.

The Sheriff’s Office issued a statement saying that that it takes the potential for suicide in custody, and the Grand Jury’s report seriously. Officials say staff members have intervened and stopped a number of suicide attempts. The statement says the agency will make a detailed response, and address what it calls “several inaccuracies” in the report.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral. 
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