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Families of people who died in county jails slam Sheriff's Department following state audit

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John Carroll
Relatives of inmates who died while in jails run by the San Diego County Sheriff's Department address the media on front of Department Headquarters on February 4, 2022.

The audit, released Thursday, is highly critical of how the Sheriff's Department has run its jails.

In front of San Diego Sheriff’s Department headquarters Friday, there was a gathering of family members whose loved ones died while in jails run by the Sheriff’s Department.

Among them was Sundee Weddle and her daughter Sabrina. Sundee’s son, Sabrina’s brother Saxon died in the central jail in July of last year.

“When something like this happens, not only are you grieving the loss, the devastating loss of having to bury my young son. He had just turned 22. Simultaneously, I’m trying to find out what happened," Sundee said.

What happened — the circumstances surrounding 185 deaths in Sheriff’s Department jails over the last 15 years, was what the California State Auditor’s office investigated. That investigation led to a scathing report released Thursday. It contained suggestions for how the Department can improve across a number of areas including intake screening, medical and mental health follow up, safety checks and more.

RELATED: State Audit: San Diego County fails to curb inmate deaths

A statement released by the Sheriff's Department said in part that it supports many of the recommendations from the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, which requested the audit. The department said it takes the findings of the audit seriously and that it’s taking action to implement the recommendations.

But that's not good enough for family members of those who died in custody or for civil justice advocates who joined them.

“We can’t find accountability, we can’t find transparency even because autopsies are locked, police reports and things like that. Family cannot get the proper documents to see what actually happened to their loved one. This is a continuing insult to injury," said Yusef Miller with the North County Equity and Justice Coalition.

Following Sheriff Gore's retirement on Thursday, Miller said he’s cautiously optimistic things will improve.

But even if they do, the changes will be too little, too late for these families, many of whom are still in the dark about exactly how their loved ones died in jails run by the Sheriff’s Department.