Sheriff's Department SB County
April 17, 1995
Dear Judge Melville:
This is the required response to the Findings and Recommendations of the Grand Jury investigation into the death of inmate Jesus Pena Rodriguez on November 16, 1994.
FINDING #1: Law enforcement agencies in Santa Barbara County need a written procedure for medical treatment of an inmate who has ingested or is suspected of ingesting narcotics or drugs, and for relaying this type of information to the booking agency.
RECOMMENDATION #I: Law enforcement agencies in Santa Barbara County should develop a procedure for medical treatment of an inmate who has ingested or is suspected of ingesting narcotics or drugs. Additionally, it is of paramount importance that any subsequent agency which assumes control of an inmate be informed of the fact that he/she has or is suspected of having ingested a narcotic. (After the commencement of the Grand Jury in investigation, such a procedure was developed and implemented by the Santa Barbara Police Department, effective January 18, 1995).
RESPONSE #1: The recommendation regarding the development of a procedure for medical treatment of an inmate who has ingested or who is suspected of ingesting narcotics or drugs has been in place for many years and was in effect at the time this incident occurred. The Sheriffs Department Inmate Receiving Screening Form specifically addresses this issue in the Officers Observations section, question #7, where it states, "Does the inmate smell of alcohol or have other signs of drug/alcohol intoxication?", and in the Health Questionnaire portion, again question #7, which reads, "Will you be withdrawing from any type of drug or alcohol?".
If during the screening process there is any determination that an inmate has ingested narcotics, it is treated as a medical emergency. The fact is there have been other instances where jail staff has been either alerted by the arresting agency, the inmates themselves, or others that there may have been an ingestion and an appropriate response has been initiated. Depending on the circumstances, the amount involved, and the symptoms of the inmate, there have been occasions when transportation to the hospital has been required, and there have been occasions when the inmate was simply monitored for a period of time.
In this particular case, the Receiving officer at the jail followed procedures -- the inmate was properly questions. and declined to advise the officer that he had swallowed a baggy of cocaine, and, because at the time of receiving the cocaine had not broken through the baggy, there were no obvious symptoms which would have alerted the officers. As soon as the officers noticed that the inmate was having a reaction to the cocaine after it had broken through the baggy, the situation was treated as a medical emergency and the inmate was quickly transported to the hospital. Unfortunately, the quantity of cocaine contained in the baggy the inmate had swallowed was lethal and nothing could be done to save his life.
It is my conclusion that the jail Receiving staff did everything proper, that upon being alerted to the physical reaction the inmate was experiencing officers did everything proper, and certainly jail medical staff did everything they could to save this person's life.
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