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KPBS Midday Edition

New bill aims to reduce high number of deaths in county jails

Sheriff's Department Intake in downtown San Diego on Dec. 23, 2020.
Matthew Bowler / KPBS
Sheriff's Department Intake in downtown San Diego on Dec. 23, 2020.

California state lawmakers from San Diego are taking the lead on legislation aimed at reducing the number of people who die in county jails.

Assemblymember Dr. Akilah Weber was joined by Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins and other local lawmakers on March 18 in announcing the "Saving Lives Custody Act."

The bill calls for providing inmates with additional health services, mental health support, and increased accountability in an effort to reduce deaths in custody.


A February report by the California state auditor found that the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department failed to adequately prevent and respond to the deaths of individuals in its custody. From 2006 through 2020, 185 people died in San Diego County’s jails — one of the highest totals in California.

The proposed legislation comes in the wake of long-time Sheriff Bill Gore's retirement and the announcement Tuesday that Anthony Ray, a 30-year veteran of the sheriff's department, will become interim sheriff on April 5.

Yusef Miller, co-founder of the North County Equity and Justice Coalition joined Midday Edition on Thursday to talk about the bill.

"I would hope it develops as a way to remove the badge and the gun from mental health services, from drug addiction services, and homelessness outreach," Miller said.

Though he applauded the legislation, Miller also urged California Attorney General Rob Bonta to take immediate action while the bill is making its way through the legislative process.


"So we are in a crisis, make no mistake," Miller said. "And we're asking Rob Bonta in the interim to come in and take charge of San Diego County jails and implement reforms to save lives."

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