Forced Medications at Santa Barbara County Jail?

Mental-Health Advocates Voice Concern over New Jailhouse Strategy

Suzanne Riordan likened the county jail’s proposed strategy to something “out of a horror movie.” | Credit: Paul Wellman File

Mental-health advocates expressed alarm that mentally ill inmates in Santa Barbara County Jail could soon find themselves forcibly injected with psychotropic medications as part of a new jailhouse strategy to get them psychologically competent to assist in their own defense. At a round-table discussion on Monday hosted by the Santa Barbara Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in the County Administration Building, speakers conjured grim scenarios in which squads of six deputies ​— ​one videotaping the proceedings ​— ​would rush into inmates’ cells, hold them down, and forcibly inject them with medication.

“It looks like the scenario out of a horror movie that will traumatize them for the rest of their lives,” objected Suzanne Riordan, a longtime advocate for mentally ill inmates in County Jail. Riordan argued that inmates should be induced to accept their medications with incentives like warmer blankets or better food.

Jail commander Vincent Wasilewski took exception to the term “forced medication,” preferring “medication over objection” instead. Before it ever got to that, he stressed, medical personnel in the jail would have spent considerable time talking with inmates to achieve compliance.

As a free community newspaper, we must evolve to thrive in the digital space. If our reporting on Santa Barbara County matters to you, we hope you will support the Independent through a digital subscription to Breaking news, critical content, and our print publication will always remain free.

Transact payments script could not be loaded respects your privacy, does not display advertisements, and does not sell your data.

To enable payment or login you will need to allow third party scripts from


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.