I had the misfortune to be held recently in the Santa Barbara County Jail for over 24 hours for an alleged misdemeanor offense. I take issue with the charge and will deal with the matter in time, but I promised my fellow detainees I would report the conditions and mistreatment at the jail. I feel a responsibility to them though I fear retribution.
I was booked into custody at about 7 p.m. and immediately noticed the negative attitude, aggression, and neglect from staff. No presumption of innocence here! They deal with some bad characters daily and are understandably jaded but the neglect and mistreatment of detainees I witnessed and endured is unnecessary and dangerous.
I was housed for 25 hours in a room about 8×10 feet with five to eight other individuals. We had only two metal benches about 7 feet long. This necessitated a sleepless night standing or sitting or lying on filthy, urine-stained floors.
Upon being booked, I informed staff I have a disability and require several medications. I saw a nurse and informed her of my medical conditions (blood clots, pulmonary embolism, severe arthritis, and prostate enlargement with urinary problems). I was told I would receive my prescribed medication, which I had evidence of, but over the next 24 hours, I asked staff 15-20 times for my medication and was ignored every time. My condition worsened, and I told staff, but again and again I was ignored. When I was released 25 hours later, I had not seen a nurse or received any medication. Further, the staff withheld food. The only food I got was a crusty bologna sandwich literally thrown at me at about 11 p.m. the first night. The next day I got no breakfast, no lunch, no dinner, nothing. My requests for food were ignored. Other detainees suffered the same neglect and mistreatment.
The cell across from us contained a solitary individual in considerable distress. He clearly had issues and was screaming and kicking and banging his head on the window and door for hours. The staff just watched him; they taunted him through the window with mimicked screams.
The staff knowingly and purposefully delay efficient processing of detainees. What should take a few hours, instead, they intentionally hold detainees in terrible conditions for 15, 20, 25 hours. My observation is that they seem to enjoy this exercise of power and neglect.
Overall this neglect and mistreatment is not acceptable. Neglecting serious medical conditions is not acceptable. Withholding food is not acceptable. Taunting detainees in obvious mental distress is not acceptable.
For members of the public who only care about the bottom line, this neglect and mistreatment exposes taxpayers to significant liability. A detainee who is denied needed medical treatment, medication, or food could literally die under these conditions.
This inefficiency and neglect makes an already dangerous environment more dangerous. The level of stress and anxiety is palpable. Neglect only exacerbates it. This creates a very volatile environment and puts detainees and staff at increased risk of harm. I will not be at all surprised if assaults occur under these circumstances.