Disturbing tales from the jail


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By Royal Calkins

When the Hernandez case began in federal court, a number of Monterey County Jail inmates prepared sworn affidavits about their medical experiences. Here are some examples.


Jason was in and out of the jail over 15 years. He was diagnosed as having a bipolar disorder and suffering from asthma and hepatitis after-effects. His spine had been fused because of a degenerative disc disease. A jail fight aggravated his back issues. He had trouble walking and asked the jail staff for a cane. Jail officials said it could be a safety concern but he eventually got one. Despite his asthma, he didn’t receive an inhaler during his final jail stay.

A month after being injured in a fight, he fell in the shower. He hit his head and spent a couple of days in the infirmary before being assigned to a rehabilitation wing, where all the bunks are triples even though some inmates there can’t navigate an upper bunk. He fell while trying to get onto his middle bunk. He was referred to a neurosurgeon but was released from the jail before seeing one. He died less than a month later at 43.


Ramona had been booked into the jail about 10 times in 15 years. She reported suffering from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anxiety, insomnia, fetal alcohol syndrome, scoliosis and Down syndrome.

On one trip to the lockup, she carried seven prescription medicines. The jail staff took them away. Monterey psychiatrist Taylor Fithian, a founder of the company that provides health care to the inmates, said she couldn’t have mental health meds until she had been clean and sober for 90 days.

“I feel unstable, hear voices, talk to myself, have trouble organizing my thoughts, find it difficult to express myself to others and get easily distracted,” she stated.

The jail allowed her to resume the prescription meds after two months. But a psychiatrist on the Wellpath staff took her off meds again and said she needed to demonstrate sobriety again.


Robert, who was born deaf, stayed in several jails and prisons on a variety of charges, including attempted homicide. Because of a speech impediment, he mainly communicates through American Sign Language. He reads a little.

Before one of his incarcerations, Robert was treated at Natividad Medical Center for injuries from a car accident. A leg and arm were fractured and he wore a cast on his arm. While being processed back into the jail, he wasn’t provided with an interpreter, which resulted in an unsafe housing assignment.

He was disciplined for using a special text phone for too long and acting out when told to get off the phone. He filed several grievances over his inability to communicate with relatives and the jail staff. He was denied use of a sign language interpreter for his medical visits or religious services. When other inmates accused him of stealing, he couldn’t defend himself.

“I agreed to be a named plaintiff in this case because I would like to represent other prisoners who have had problems similar to what I have experienced while in Monterey County Jail.”


Martha was in jail for a parole violation. She reported suffering from chronic pain from injuries, multiple sclerosis and a flesh-eating disease. She also suffered from arthritis, hypertension, hepatitis, a bipolar disorder and dementia.

“I frequently fall because of my poor state of health. The jail has not provided me with adequate accommodations and assistance for my mobility impairment. The pain in my back and legs and my arthritis make it difficult for me to walk without a walker. When I came into jail I had a walker. When I returned from the hospital it took staff nearly two weeks to give me back my walker.

“I can generally manage my pain from migraines and arthritis with Tylenol, though sometimes that pain increases to the point where I require stronger medication. There have been multiple times … where I have requested Tylenol or stronger medication and have experienced significant delays being assessed and/or receiving medication.”

After telling the staff she was hearing voices telling her to kill, she was taken to a safety cell, which she and other inmates call the rubber room.

“The rubber room is a dirty cell that smells bad. It has nothing in it except a grate in the floor for a toilet — no bed, bench, sink, or anything else. The jail staff took all of my clothes. I was left there overnight completely naked, with nothing to lie on except a mat. I was given no water or food, and no blanket or mattress. There was no toilet paper.”


Susan said she wasn’t provided with medical tests prescribed by outside doctors.

“According to a page from my medical record, Dr. Centurion (not from Wellpath) ordered that I receive a full neuropsychiatric assessment to evaluate cognitive function. From my medical records, it does not appear that anyone at the jail reviewed this order until (four months later). I still have not received a neuropsychiatric assessment (a year later.).

“As a result, I have not been to the yard for the entire period that I have been incarcerated in the jail. The only times I have gone outside have been to go to court and when I have medical appointments at facilities outside of the jail. This lack of access to exercise and the outdoors has had a profoundly negative effect on my physical and mental well-being.”

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About Royal Calkins

Contributing writer Royal Calkins has worked for newspapers in Santa Cruz, Monterey and Fresno. He can be reached at calkinsroyal@gmail.com.

3 thoughts on “Disturbing tales from the jail

  1. My brother-in-law pushed my father. Spd was called. My sister was upset when talking to spd, they arrested my sister and placed on suicide watch in the padded room for the weekend. All because she was yelling and trying to defuse the situation. That padded room needs to be sanitized.

  2. When the reader’s are ready for the truth. Ill be the One to tell it. Contact me for the uncut no b.s. real talk. The inmates are the problem. Not the facility.

  3. I was wrongfully accused of battery because of a medication issue and the staff FORGOT I was in solitary confinement and left me there die in the most aggravating and intense emotional pain imaginable. I currently have PTSD from my stay at Monterey County Jail and this is all because of a minor infraction and a misunderstanding on the part of the arresting officer. I will live with debilitating emotional pain and I will suffer the rest of my life because of my experiences at the Jail. I should have been at the hospital not the jail and I will go to the ends of the earth to find out and to sue whoever had any part in my abandonment at the Jail. This pain that I am suffering is real and someone must answer for what has been done to me.

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