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Advocates meet with interim sheriff to discuss inmate deaths

San Diego Sheriff
Posted at 3:56 PM, Apr 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-12 20:37:03-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — A 38-year-old man died in custody on Monday. The inmate's death marks the seventh in our local jail system this year.

On Tuesday, local advocates met with Interim Sheriff Anthony Ray to discuss the problem and possible solutions. Advocates in partnership with the People's Association of Justice Advocates said that the Interim Sheriff openly listened to their recommendations.

The advocates shared during a press conference that they understand that Interim Sheriff Ray has only been in his position for a week, and will only stay for eight months, but they are hoping he can show his support on an important piece of legislation, that they believe will help lower the rates of inmate deaths.

Shane Harris, along with Retired CA Assembly Speaker, Lori Saldaña, Francine Maxwell with Black Men & Women United, and activist Yusef Miller, asked Interim Sheriff Ray during a private meeting, to endorse AB 2343, called 'Safety in Custody Act'.

"Going to jail should not be a death sentence," shared Harris.

The bill asks for a board to be created to establish standards for correctional facilities and their officers. That includes staff training, mental health screenings, and safety checks of inmates.

"We found out today for example that the newest and least trained deputies are the first to be assigned in the detentions. My question was is that common practice?" asked Saldaña. "I think if we have the least experienced deputies with people who are dying at the highest rates…that is definitely something they need to address."

The Sheriff's Department shared that from 2006 to 2020, there were a total of 185 inmate deaths. The County's Law Enforcement Review Board shared data that said in 2020, 23% of the inmate's deaths were of Black and Latinx individuals.

In 2021, 39% of the inmate deaths were Latinx and 13% were Black.

"We can't tolerate any more deaths," emphasized Saldaña.

Advocates say that the Sheriff's Department said recommendations in the audit have already been implemented in their department. The advocates hope that Interim Sheriff Ray heads to Sacramento to sign his support on this bill, which will be heard in three weeks during a public safety committee hearing.

"It will take time, we recognize that," says Saldaña. "As we said many times in the meeting, we will continue to check in with his office and continue to push for that support."

Harris did say on Tuesday that in his meeting with the Interim Sheriff, he asked Interim Sheriff Ray to release body camera footage of Monday's inmate death.

While these advocates did not give Interim Sheriff Ray a timeline for a response on whether or not he would endorse this bill, they are hoping for an answer as soon as possible.