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ACLU files class-action suit over San Diego County jail conditions

 February 11, 2022 at 4:28 PM PST

Speaker 1: (00:00)

A federal lawsuit claims dangerous deadly conditions in San Diego county jails.

Speaker 2: (00:05)

We are interested in protecting lives. We are interested in humane conditions.

Speaker 1: (00:11)

I'm Maureen Kavanaugh. This is K PBS midday edition. The San Diego opera brings Mozart's COE found two day back to the civic theater,

Speaker 3: (00:29)

I think has a particular resonance coming out of this time where all of a sudden all of our lives were shattered in a way that we couldn't have imagined. And you, you realize how vulnerable you are and how unpredictable by is going to be.

Speaker 1: (00:43)

And some Valentine's day jazz on our weekend preview that's ahead on midday edition. First audit. Now a federal class action lawsuit is calling for reforms in San Diego county jails, the a C L U, along with lawyers representing several jail inmates claim. The Sheriff's department and San Diego county have failed to provide adequate medical care and living conditions inside the county seven jail facilities yesterday on midday edition, the newly appointed overseer for county jails assistant sheriff there, Adams hider responded to the state audit that criticized the lack of healthcare and the number of inmate deaths in San Diego.

Speaker 4: (01:37)

I recognized the need for us to look at some of these recommendations in that audit to make it a safe for environment for those incarcerated individuals. So really it's just looking at the recommendations. What have we been doing? What can we do better? And what can we change?

Speaker 1: (01:53)

Joining me is a C L U senior staff attorney Baris faley.

Speaker 2: (01:57)

Thank you for having me, Maureen,

Speaker 1: (01:58)

The state audit investigating the high death rate at San Diego county jails, inadequate mental health screening and deficient safety measures like bed checks at the jails. Does this lawsuit make similar accusations?

Speaker 2: (02:13)

It does. And more, there has been years of inadequate mental healthcare, medical care, just systems in place that overwhelmingly create risk for people in medical and with medical and mental health needs. Well, not only does the audit track with our own investigation, but our own investigation revealed so much more beyond that as well.

Speaker 1: (02:33)

And you also allege that the county jails have not provided adequate support for inmates with physical disabilities.

Speaker 2: (02:40)

That's correct. Jails have a large number of people with not just mental health disabilities, but physical disabilities. Some of our plaintiffs are in wheelchairs. We've heard of people having prosthetic legs just taken away and thrown away, no access for people in wheelchairs to showers, stools that are bolted down so that you can't access telephones. And so there's a series of recommendations and allegations in our lawsuit that go beyond the significant issue of deaths in custody, but also just the inhumane and dangerous conditions all around

Speaker 1: (03:09)

Your legal complaint, includes some shocking photos of conditions inside county jails. Can you tell us about them?

Speaker 2: (03:16)

We have found and put into complaint pictures of just filthy conditions, garbage piled up in cells. And obviously people inside, they don't have access to trashcans. They rely on custody staff to help them clean. And it's just filthy conditions. One of the pictures has graffiti on the walls in one of the mental health units written in feces. That was up we're told for, for not a short amount of time. That was just left up there while old person that had to live inside people sleeping under their beds, because they're trying to find a clean space to be it's really just degrading conditions. You wouldn't wish upon your worst enemy that we've uncovered.

Speaker 1: (03:49)

Now, the lawsuit also tells the stories of why some inmates died in San Diego jails. Can you share one or two of those stories?

Speaker 2: (03:58)

Sure. And, and there are, there are all heartbreaking. One. Death is too many. And so it's hard to just highlight, you know, one over any others. I don't want to disrespect any families that have grieved loved ones who, who have been lost inside. But for instance, one individual Mr. Marquin was known to have a mental health concern that caused him to drink water, uncontrollably, unmonitored. He would drown himself. The fifth silly knew about it yet. They held him in general population in, in unmonitored situations until he drank himself to death. Those kinds of things can't happen in a jail when you're supposed to be monitoring and, and protecting the people with mental health concerns. I'll highlight another one that really, I think, highlights some of the systemic issues that are in place. There's a story of a man, Mr. Morty, who was known to be suicidal. His wife called the Vista jail facility 30 times over the course of three days to tell the facility he was suicidal, mental health recommendations from inside the facility said this person needs to be monitored. And on suicide watch and the custody staff, the guards overruled the medical recommendation did not allow that person to go into suicide watch. And he then committed suicide afterward,

Speaker 1: (05:07)

Who are the plaintiffs in this lawsuit? Are they people who are still incarcerated?

Speaker 2: (05:11)

There are several people who are still incarcerated in the jails right now. Some have been in the jails and have now moved on. The jail system is a fluid population, uh, with people going in and out tens of, of people go into the San Diego jail system every year, um, at any given time there's 4,000 of them. And so the, the case seeks to represent the class of 4,000 or however many people are in custody on any given day and the plaintiffs or people that I've had firsthand experience either currently or recently with the jail system.

Speaker 1: (05:40)

Is this lawsuit demanding money damages?

Speaker 2: (05:43)

No, we are not interested in money damages. We are interested in protecting lives. We are interested in humane conditions. We are interested in having a court help the sheriff do what it has refused to do for years. Despite expert recommendations, year after year to treat people inside with dignity.

Speaker 1: (06:02)

Now we heard from the new assistant sheriff in charge of county jails, Teresa Adams, Heer who said the department is willing to examine its procedures and make changes. Do you see this as a hopeful sign?

Speaker 2: (06:14)

We are always in, in any lit, always willing to come to the table and discuss resolving things. But words, deeds are two different things. And the Sheriff's department has been given opportunity after opportunity to address these conditions. Expert recommendations have been given for years how to address them. And they've been ignored. Instead. The Sheriff's department is quibbled with data and, and try to deny things have happened. So we will take hopeful signs, but that doesn't mean we're going to take the foot off the gas. This is an urgent crisis, and we're gonna move forward with all Hass to try to protect people.

Speaker 1: (06:50)

I've been speaking with a C L U senior staff attorney Bartis Vakili. Thank you so much for joining us.

Speaker 2: (06:56)

Thank you so much for having me.

Speaker 1: (07:08)

San Diego opera is back to in-person productions at the civic theater, after experimenting with drive-in performances during the pandemic KPBS arts reporter, Beth Amando goes behind the scenes of Mozart's koi Fante.

Speaker 5: (07:23)

If there's anything the pandemic has taught us it's that we need to be flexible and just roll with whatever life, hands us in a way. That's what Mozart's koi Fanti is all about. Says director Tim Nelson,

Speaker 3: (07:37)

Just the moment that your heart breaks for the first time. And you realize that life is not going to be as simple or as plantable as you imagined it. I think as a particular resonance coming out of this time, where all of a sudden all of our lives were shattered in a way that we couldn't have imagined. And you, you realize how vulnerable you are and how unpredictable life is going to be.

Speaker 6: (07:59)

You know, that's one of the best things about arts is that it imitates life.

Speaker 5: (08:03)

Reginal Smith Jr sings the central role of Don Alfonso.

Speaker 6: (08:06)

We all had our own individual plans and things are great, and everything's gonna work out now. I think even still in the middle of this pandemic, we all have a heightened understanding and awareness of our selves of space of washing our hands, but also a great appreciation for relationships and connections and friendships

Speaker 5: (08:30)

For San Diego. Opera's general director, David Bennett, returning to live performances needed to take into account, not only artistic concerns, but practical ones as well.

Speaker 7: (08:40)

It's a small opera. It has a cast of six, has a relatively small chorus and in our production, which is a new production, the chorus is off stage the entire time. And it has a not small, but not a large orchestra too. So all of that's part of why we chose it, right, but it's Mozart

Speaker 5: (08:58)

And Mozart serves up a story of transformation, which audiences can identify with, especially now in Kosi. Fante two sets of lovers discover that the course of true love never does run smooth prompting Nelson to take his design cue from Shakespeares a Midsummer night dream,

Speaker 3: (09:15)

The metaphor that Shakespeare spins out and dream along with a lot of his place of going into the woods of going into a dark scary place where one goes through a transformative experience and comes out on the other side different than the way they went into it. So the way this production will look is actually very much like a production of mid summer night dream.

Speaker 5: (09:36)

So an idyllic poppy field where we first meet the lovers transforms into a wooded forest where Don Alfonso, a confirmed bachelor tries to prove that all women are fickle.

Speaker 3: (09:47)

So every director has a decision to make as to who is the smartest character on the stage, whose show is it for me, it's Don Alfonso's show. It's a great joy to be doing it with Reggie and having someone who's able to own not only his role, but his show

Speaker 5: (10:02)

Smith does command the stage as he literally steps in to direct the action

Speaker 6: (10:18)

Because he is the puppet master, much like Yago in Otello. There's always this sort of, there's always a little whisper. And so he's always around. And so there's a sense of you always have to be on,

Speaker 5: (10:32)

Even when he is not singing, he's busy on the periphery of the stage, making sure thing are going according to his plans to add levity to some of the action on stage Nelson has turned to Vodville.

Speaker 3: (10:43)

So one of the things that we've done conception wise, um, particularly in the design is to lean into stage magic old fashioned Vodville stage magic because we're, we're using as a central metaphor of the piece in a performance being on, on stage.

Speaker 5: (11:00)

But none of these antics detract from the music,

Speaker 6: (11:06)

There's something about the music of Mozart that just speaks right to your heart.

Speaker 5: (11:11)

What better way to spend this Valentine's weekend than with Mozart's playfully romantic opera, which reminds us that in matters of both the heart and life, we need to be ready to roll with the punches Beth like Mando K PBS news,

Speaker 1: (11:26)

San Diego operas COI Fante will have four performances at the civic theater starting this Saturday. This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh. In addition to the return of in-person opera at San Diego civic theater this weekend in the arts free concerts from the San Diego symphony, lots of visual art are you youth theater take on the Wiz and some Valentine stage jazz. Joining me with all the details as K P S arts producer and editor, Julia Dixon Evans, and welcome Julia.

Speaker 8: (12:25)

Hi Maureen.

Speaker 1: (12:26)

It's one of those weekends, again, multiple art receptions at bread and salt. We heard from one of those art this week on the show ear, Sophia Porter, but tell us who else is on view,

Speaker 8: (12:37)

Right? And it all takes place Saturday from five to eight in Logan Heights. And yeah, besides Porter's show, which is called new man, a woman's gaze, which, um, that one is in the main gallery. There's another opening reception. It's in the, not an exit, which is a tiny project space. And this was directed by the late Bob math years ago, tomorrow and exhibition will open there called trace, which is about public architecture and the architectural process they're featuring studies of works by Rob Quigley, Jennifer Lu, and more local architects with new work also by bread and salt founder, James Brown, and then also on site at bread and salt at Quint one, they're celebrating the closing of Roman de Salvos massive metal tree sculpture installation, and then at best practice, the two exhibitions that are from the Mexico based artists, Mauricio Munos and Andrew Roberts will also close. Um, Roberts was just announced as one of the artists in the 2022 Whitney biennial, which is really exciting. So this is your chance to see his pretty powerful video installation locally.

Speaker 1: (13:51)

And it all goes down at bread and salt on Saturday from five to 8:00 PM am world beat cultural center's youth theater program is putting on a special performance for black history month. Tell us about this one.

Speaker 8: (14:04)

Yeah, this is just one performance and it's a theatrical adaptation, the seventies movie and Broadway musical, the Wiz that one was a retelling of the wizard of Oz story set in seventies, era Harlem, and the movie starts some major players in black film and music like Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Nipsey Russell, Richard Pryor, tons more. And the soundtrack was composed by Charlie smalls as well as Luther Vandros to and the world beat centers. Miss Mony. She's the one who runs their summer camps, their dance and theater programs. She's the one directing this

Speaker 1: (14:43)

Play. That's Saturday at 7:00 PM at the world beat cultural center in Bebo a park. The symphony has relaunch their free family concert series called music connects. Who's getting connected this weekend,

Speaker 8: (14:57)

Right? These concerts they're intended to be family friendly in the community and they're supposed to last no more than an hour. And they're brought out into the neighborhoods and performed in venues all over the city, across the net three months. And this weekend, they have two daytime shows. Those are at foothills United Methodist church in LA Mesa. And then in the evening at first Presbyterian church downtown, they have a special guest conductor. It's the lyric opera of Chicago's Stefano C and they're gonna play two pieces. One is BEOV is overture to Corey, Alan, and then symphony number three in G minor by Louis Farran, who was the only woman to ever teach at the Paris conservatory in the 19th century, as well as a gifted composer and piano player. And I also recently learned that she found out she was being paid significantly less than the male profile at the academy. So she fought for equal pay and one

Speaker 1: (15:56)

Saturday's free symphony performances are at 11:00 AM and 1230 in LA Mesa and 7:30 PM downtown. And you'll need to reserve tickets online in advance. There's a special three night event at an inclusive community center in that he Heights tell us about the brown building and resilience,

Speaker 8: (16:16)

Right? This is mostly an art show with music and community. And it's described as an exploration of love. So from five to 10 each night, tonight, Saturday and Sunday, you can stop by the brown building to see the exhibition and here of the performances. But the artist list here is what really caught my eye. There's some really incredible artists. There's marina, Tara Arul Arnold Barreto Sochi Perez and tons more

Speaker 1: (16:46)

Resilience takes place each night. This weekend at the brown building in the Azalia park neighborhood of city Heights. Finally, some Valentine stage jazz at a new jazz venue in Rolando recently opened by local jazz. Great Leonard Patton. Tell us about this one,

Speaker 8: (17:03)

Right? There's a lot to love about this new venue, especially that they live stream every performance. And it's a really small intimate spot in Rolando. They feature jazz performances and this one, which is a Louie Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald tribute show, it's become kind of an annual tradition for Leonard pat and some of his, his frequent collaborators like ed corn Houser. And this year they're also bringing in Rebecca Jade on vocals and Kurt Taylor on trumpet. Just to name a few and here's levy and rose from last year's live stream,

Speaker 9: (17:54)


Speaker 1: (17:55)

Heart that's Leonard Patton and friends performing a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald and Louie Armstrong with two concerts Monday at 5:00 PM and 7:30 PM at the jazz lounge for details on these and more arts events or to sign up for Julia's weekly KPBS arts newsletter, go to, and be sure to check with event organizers for changes before heading out. I've been speaking with K PBS arts producer and editor, Julia Dixon Evans. Julia. Thank you.

Speaker 8: (18:27)

Thank you, Maureen. Have a good weekend.

The ACLU along with lawyers representing several incarcerated people are suing the Sheriff's Department and San Diego County to improve medical care and living conditions inside the county’s seven jail facilities. Plus, San Diego Opera is back to in-person productions at the Civic Theater after experimenting with drive-in performances during the pandemic. And, this weekend in the arts, free concerts from the San Diego Symphony, lots of visual art, a youth theater take on "The Wiz," and some Valentine's Day jazz.