California Legislature OKs Bill to Increase Transparency of In-Custody Jail Deaths – Heads to Governor

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By The Vanguard Staff

SACRAMENTO, CA – California legislation to “increase transparency and accountability for local detention facilities as it relates to in-custody deaths” was approved Wednesday by the State Senate 31-4 and goes to the governor’s office.

Authored by Senate by Pro Tem Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego), Senate Bill 519 will, said Atkins, “help improve conditions in county jails statewide and increase transparency for the families of victims.”

“Local detention centers have unfortunately been slow to address internal issues and in many cases unresponsive, as it relates to the alarming increase in deaths of persons in-custody. This is a growing problem not only here in San Diego County, but at other detention facilities around the state,” said Atkins.

The Pro Tem added, “It’s critical for our communities and for families to have more transparency and accountability. SB 519 would give families the transparency they deserve and provide enough oversight so that the county can work to reduce further deaths.”

The author added, in a statement, there is an “alarming increase in death incidents has occurred in San Diego County in the last three years, with 18 in custody deaths in 2021 and 20 deaths in 2022. This year already 11 inmates have died in-custody in San Diego County facilities.”

“San Diego County is not alone in this alarming statistic. In 2022, 18 people died in-custody in Riverside County jails. As of August 2023, 23 people have died in Los Angeles County jails. In 2021 and 2022, there were 19 in-custody deaths in Sacramento County jails,” Atkins added.

SB 519, the legislative leader added, would “make investigatory reports of an in-custody death conducted by a sheriff’s department public in an effort to reduce future deaths.”

The measure would also “increase oversight by creating the position of Director of In-Custody Death Review within the Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC),” who would “review investigations of deaths, and make recommendations as it relates to policies, procedures, staffing, and other factors, to the Sheriff or detention facility administrator. Sheriffs or administrators would have 90 days to respond.”

The bill, if signed, also “directs the BSCC to employ a sufficient number of licensed medical professionals and behavioral health professionals to participate in the reviews described in the oversight requirements, help establish and implement health and behavioral health standards for local detention facilities, and review delivery of medical and behavioral health services within local detention facilities.”

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