I volunteer at the San Luis Obispo County Jail, on the women's side.
I have seen, and spent time with inmates in the isolation unit, and witnessed many different situations during my visits. The volatile, and unpredictable episodes that go on daily are beyond understanding to some people. There were times, as I went to speak to some of those who suffer from mental illness, that they would be in a dangerous rage, with fecal and urine bombs ready to throw out the door slats at any given opportunity. Other times, they would be calm and peaceful, and the very next second violent and out of control.
I have witnessed firsthand that the officers do their very best to calmly speak to them and ask them what they need, to bring resolution to the situation. Numerous times, inmates purposefully flooded the cells, so that when the officers had to open the cell door, they could either throw fecal matter or attack physically. Verbal screaming was just a normal act that I witnessed weekly. The officers did their best to handle each situation with no harm coming to anyone.
SLO County Sheriff Ian Parkinson leads with respect and integrity, and does a very good job with every situation that comes his way. No person is perfect, and it is so sad that lives have been lost. However, it is not the fault of Parkinson or his officers.
There is a deeper issue: The lack of help for inmates who suffer from mental illness, which is not what the jail system is for. And that is clearly what has happened.
I support Parkinson 100 percent and believe that people who have been inside volunteering should be heard.
Christa Spates, San Luis Obispo