Woman suffered a mental health crisis at the jail. Now she's suing SLO County

Coral Martin talks about mental health crisis that led to her arrest

Los Osos resident Coral Martin and her mother discuss Martin's 2016 arrest, when she spent five days in San Luis Obispo County Jail instead of being taken to the county psychiatric facility.
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Los Osos resident Coral Martin and her mother discuss Martin's 2016 arrest, when she spent five days in San Luis Obispo County Jail instead of being taken to the county psychiatric facility.

A Los Osos woman is suing San Luis Obispo County in federal court after she was denied admission to its psychiatric facility despite being in the midst of a mental health crisis, and instead was left for five days at County Jail where she began hurting herself in an isolation cell.

Coral Erin Martin, 20, says jail staff also denied her some of her psychiatric and hormonal medications, worsening her condition and leading to busted front teeth, a concussion, and other injuries.

"(Martin) was suffering an obvious psychotic health crisis," the complaint reads. "By not bringing (her) to a psychiatric facility, and instead bringing her to jail, (police officers) placed (her) health in danger."

Martin is seeking unspecified damages in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court Thursday, which alleges excessive force, cruel and unusual punishment, and other civil rights violations. It lists as defendants the county, Sheriff Ian Parkinson, Undersheriff Tim Olivas, the county Health Agency, Director Jeff Hamm, and the Morro Bay Police Department.

San Luis Obispo County Counsel Rita Neal said late Tuesday that she was unable to comment on the complaint because the county had yet to receive it.

A hearing date in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles has not yet been scheduled.

The lawsuit was filed a day before The Tribune released graphic jail surveillance video depicting the restraint and death of Andrew Holland, a mentally ill Atascadero resident who died in January 2017 after being left in a plastic restraint chair for nearly two days.

The video has led to calls for Sheriff Ian Parkinson to resign and for District Attorney Dan to launch a local investigation into a series of 12 in-custody deaths since January 2012.

The FBI is currently investigating Holland's death as well as other allegations of civil rights abuses at the jail.

Andrew Holland died while at the San Luis Obispo County, California jail in 2017. This exclusive jail cell video shows his final days strapped to a restraint chair and left naked in a solitary confinement cell.

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Martin and her mother, a local emergency room nurse, were featured in a Nov. 25, 2017, Tribune article about local families who say their loved ones' time at the SLO County Jail worsened their mental illnesses.

According to her lawsuit and jail and hospital records she provided to The Tribune in November, Martin is diagnosed with depression, borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder, and has a history of dissociative episodes. She was arrested in Morro Bay in March 2016 following an incident in which she got into altercation in a parking lot, drove off in her car with friends inside, and struck a parked car.

No one was injured in the crash, and Martin later pleaded no contest to misdemeanor DUI (marijuana) and assault.

Though the arrest report noted that she was in mental crisis, Martin was taken to County Jail because there were already other inmates in line for transfer to the county's sole, 16-bed psychiatric facility.

During her first night in jail, her mother drove to the jail to deliver Martin's four regular medications, three psychiatric medications and a hormone.

"(Martin's) mother informed the (employees) that it was dangerous to (Martin's) health to miss any doses," the complaint reads.

Despite that, a jail physician determined she only needed two of the psychiatric medications and denied her the others, according to the lawsuit. Cessation of the hormone caused Martin to immediately begin menstruating and she also began experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms from the psychotropic medication, worsening her mental state, the lawsuit says.

She was left naked inside a solitary cell for several days before being transferred to a bed and toilet-less "safety cell" where she continued hallucinating and smeared human waste and menstrual blood over herself.

She was eventually taken to a local hospital and released after she began banging her head on a metal grate, causing injuries to her mouth and head.

Martin told The Tribune in November that she lost her job while in jail and had to drop out of classes at Cuesta College to receive treatment at a private facility outside the county.

“I had a great job," she said. "I lost everything."

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Among its promised reforms since Holland's death, the county says it has “changed protocols to ensure that the (psychiatric) facility can now promptly accept mentally ill inmates who are a danger to themselves or others," which may have prevented Martin's injuries.

The lawsuit was filed by Paula Canny, a San Mateo-based attorney who represented Holland's family in the aftermath of his death and negotiated a $5 million settlement with the county, which was awarded in July.

Since representing the Hollands, Canny has represented other former inmates who claimed they were mistreated or misplaced by jail staff, including a Lodi man who injured himself in a solitary cell the same night as Holland's death despite needing psychiatric and medical treatment, and a Lompoc woman who witnessed Holland's death while cleaning feces from his cell as part of an inmate work crew.

Canny also filed a civil rights lawsuit in SLO Superior Court late last month in an attempt to compel jail officials to provide tampons free of charge as needed to female inmates at the jail. Canny argued the jail's practice of charging $3.23 for a box of 10 tampons violates California Title 15 Minimum Standards for Local Detention Facilities civil rights requirements.

Matt Fountain 781-7909, @mattfountain1