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Debriefer: June 1, 2016 

Life Behind Bars

Last week's cover story in the Bohemian focused on a report from the statewide Disability Rights California organization that was critical of the Sonoma County Main Adult Detention Facility for its illegal drugging of inmates and for its use of quiet cells. The overarching theme of the investigation is that Sonoma County mental-health workers, despite their best efforts, have failed to adequately—and constitutionally—treat a growing prisoner population of mentally ill offenders.

As part of the story, the Bohemian wanted to know whether the DRC report shined any light on a trio of deaths at the jail from 2014—and especially the death of Rhonda Everson, who died in custody and was reportedly going through withdrawal from drugs. A statement from the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office in response to questions about Everson's death arrived after our Tuesday deadline last week. The Sheriff's Office has previously said that Everson was in a special cell for inmates undergoing withdrawal at the time of her death. The newspaper appreciates that Capt. John Naiman provided the following statement, reprinted here in its entirety:

"I'm unable to provide specific information about Rhonda Everson because of pending litigation. I do believe there is some general information I can provide to assist you in understanding the various housing units located within the Sonoma County Main Adult Detention Facility.

Inmates who are at risk of going through withdrawal symptoms from drugs or alcohol are generally housed in R-Module. Because of its location and design, R-Module is particularly well suited to housing inmates who are at risk of withdrawing from drugs or alcohol. R-Module is a short walk from the Booking intake area and provides easier access to the court holding areas than other housing modules. Being a single-level unit, inmates who are at risk of withdrawing do not have to walk up or down stairs to get to their cells or access features of the module such as phones, televisions, showers or visiting. This is particularly important for someone who may be unsteady on their feet or suffer from mobility issues.

"Inmates who are at risk of going through withdrawals are typically assigned a single occupancy cell. This is particularly important for those inmates who have symptoms of gastrointestinal upset, nausea, vomiting, headaches, anxiety or, in more severe cases, delirium or hallucinations. R-Module was originally designed as a general population housing module and the cells were designed accordingly. Recently, the R-Module dayroom was remodeled to allow inmates of different classifications to have out-of-cell activity time in secure sub dayrooms. This was an important modification to maximize out-of-cell time for inmates of all classifications. Each cell has an emergency call button inmates may push to summon a Correctional Deputy in case of an emergency. In addition to housing inmates at risk of withdrawal, R-Module can also house general-population inmates as needed.

"There are no Safety Cells in R-Module. If an inmate were to become actively suicidal, they would be moved out of R-module and rehoused to a Safety Cell located in other areas of the facility."

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