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Public Safety

Woman blinded in jail settles with San Diego County for $4M

The San Diego Central Jail on Front Street, August 7, 2018.
Claire Trageser
The San Diego Central Jail on Front Street, August 7, 2018.

A woman who blinded herself in jail while under the influence of drugs as a deputy watched will receive $4.35 million in a settlement with San Diego County, her lawyer said.

Tanya Suarez had sued the county, alleging jail staff failed to protect her from harming herself after she was arrested in 2019, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported late Wednesday.

Suarez was arrested after police found her wandering outside a San Ysidro motel where she had used drugs. When she was taken into custody at the Las Colinas women’s jail in Santee, she was acting oddly and clawing at her eyes, according to jail paperwork, and staff placed her in a cell by herself.

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Suarez said in her lawsuit that a deputy was watching as she tried to remove her eyeball and failed to intervene after she succeeded.

Suarez says the money will help her work toward living more independently. Danielle Pena, her lawyer, said she hopes to see more accountability.

A Sheriff's Department spokesperson says the settlement can't erase the pain and extended its sympathy to Suarez and her family.

Inmate deaths in San Diego County jails have ranked among the highest in California for the past 15 years and according to an independent review released by the state auditor earlier this year, authorities have consistently failed to address the problem.

The report found the San Diego County Sheriff's Department failed to adequately assess inmates' physical and mental health and intervene adequately in emergencies. The department said it has since adopted measures to address the problem, but the deaths have continued at a record pace.

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