Victims' families criticize Newsom for vetoing jail deaths legislation
Days after Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed AB 2343, the Saving Lives in Custody Act, the families of those who have died in custody of the San Diego County Sheriff's Department gathered downtown to protest and to share their stories.
"My son died last July 20, 2021, just four days after he was booked into (the) central jail," said Sundee Weddle. "His cause of death was listed as an accidental overdose. However, there’s nothing accidental about the amount of drugs inside San Diego jails."
Tammy Wilson's husband, Omar Marino Arroyo, died in custody in January of 2021. "He was having a mental health crisis," Wilson said.
They were joined by justice advocates who have been working for change to send a message to the governor about his veto.
"I had no intentions of speaking today because I’m so tired of being out here," Sabrina Weddle said through tears. In frustration she asked, "How many people does Newsom want to die before he sees change?"
Wilson said she and others worked hard to pass the legislation.
"If AB 2343 had been in place at that time, I believe that could’ve saved my husband’s life," she said.
Sundee Weddle said little has been done to provide proper care, oversight and supervision inside jails. She said Gov. Newsom refuses to listen to experts who are telling him how to stem the deaths.
Newsom said he vetoed the bill because it required two new positions on the Board of State and Community Corrections. Newsom said that would impede the board’s ability to carry out its mission in a timely manner.
"The explanation that the governor gave us was such a betrayal," said Yusef Miller, co-founder of the North County Equity Justice Coalition Saving Lives in Custody Campaign.
Miller said the two new board positions are necessary. "One is medical and one is mental health — and a lot of the deaths that we have are a combination of both if not one or the other," he said.
Shawn Mills, the sister of another inmate who died, called the veto "a slap in the face ... You would think (Newsom) would have some kind of compassion for us but then him just to veto it — it’s like you don’t care, it’s like losing my brother again."
Assembly Member Dr. Akilah Weber, who wrote the bill, did not attend Monday's rally but in a written statement said she looks forward to working with the governor’s office to reintroduce the bill next year.
The Sheriff's Department released a written statement about the legislation: "Independent of any legislative action, the San Diego County Sheriff's Department's ongoing efforts mirror recommendations made by the State Audit Report on San Diego County jails. We remain steadfast in our commitment to keeping individuals in our custody safe, as well as making improvements and positive changes to continue providing them the highest quality medical and mental health care."
After a state audit found the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department failed to adequately prevent and respond to the deaths of individuals in its custody, San Diego Assemblywoman Akilah Weber wrote the, “Saving Lives In Custody Act.” Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed the bill on Friday. Then, a sailor charged with intentionally setting the fire that destroyed the Navy ship the USS Bonhomme Richard was acquitted in a military court. Reporting by ProPublica uncovered systemic failures that contributed to the destruction of the $1.2 billion dollar warship.
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