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In-custody deaths are becoming more abnormal in California, state lawmakers want answers

Posted by Sara Cooper | Aug 24, 2023 | 0 Comments

The Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown San Diego / Photo by Adriana Heldiz - Voices of San Diego

In 2021, 18 people had died in San Diego County jails, the most ever recorded in the county's history. Local officials had brought up concern, leading to call outs for change at a level that is not the normal.

For 2022, another 18 people had died in custody, with an average of 3,800 people incarcerated in San Diego County jails according to CalMattters, bringing it as a top morality compared to our county jail systems in California.

Now for this year so far, 11 people have passed unfortunately, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Beyond San Diego, six other jail systems in California have had record inmate deaths last year, according to California Department of Justice data dating to 2005. Alarming enough, it has now become a statewide issue that lawmakers are barely responding to now with struggling to adopt a response to.

According to CalMatters, “Now a bill written by a powerful legislator from San Diego could upend California's county jail systems by putting a “detention monitor” in jails to serve as a kind of statewide inspector general. Senate leader Toni Atkins said the bill would force sheriffs to disclose more information to the public about in-custody deaths.”

At a hearing on the bill last month, Democrat Atkins said the boards of supervisors are responsible for “settling lawsuits involving in-custody jail deaths, but have limited authority in requiring the Sheriff's Department to enact policies to reduce in-custody deaths.”

According to Atkins, the county of San Diego has spent almost $50 million for settlements involving in-custody deaths in just the past five years.

Her bill has two central features: the detention monitor, and a measure that would grant more public access to in-custody death reports.

Updates will be published once announced.

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