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Hearing date set for injunction designed to force changes in how San Diego County jails are run

From 2006 through 2021, 203 people died while in custody in San Diego County jails. Ten more have died so far this year. Now, activists who are trying to force changes in the way the jails are run have a court date.

They gathered again on the steps of the Hall of Justice Thursday afternoon, sounding a familiar cry: “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!”

They also shared stories of loved ones who’ve died in jails run by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.

“I’m the older sister of Saxon Rodriguez. Saxon Rodriguez died July 20, 2021," said Sabrina Weddle, who lashed out at the Sheriff's Department for not providing her family with any answers as to why her brother died of a fentanyl overdose while in custody.

The report was commissioned by CLERB, the Citizens Law Enforcement Review Board.

Tammy Wilson accused law enforcement of making up a charge of drinking in public against her husband, Omar Moreno. "Omar was not drunk, nor was he in public," she said, saying he was having a mental issue when deputies arrested him.

“My life has changed forever. I am not the same person I was," Wilson said as she choked back tears.

Activists Yusef Miller and Darwin Fishman, with the Racial Justice Coalition of San Diego and the North County Equity and Justice Coalition, have been working for years to get the Sheriff’s Department to reform how it runs jails.

Recently, the department added naloxone in all jail common areas to help prevent overdose deaths. But that’s not nearly enough for these activists, and now they might soon see progress, in the form of an injunction.

“We had to file this motion in federal court because the county and the Sheriff’s Department are not taking the actions that they know must be taken in order to safeguard the people who are incarcerated in the county’s jails," said Van Swearingen, one of the attorneys seeking the injunction.

A hearing on the injunction is scheduled to take place on August 11 in federal court. The judge could grant it, could deny it or could take it under consideration.

In addition, AB 2343, the Saving Lives In Custody Act put forward by Dr. Akilah Weber, a State Assembly member from San Diego, is making its way through the legislature.

Miller said the law was badly needed. “If it’s approved it will become law to save lives in custody in San Diego," he said.