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Long Stays At San Diego’s Jails

 April 2, 2021 at 4:54 AM PDT

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Friday, April 2nd. Overly long stays at the San Diego County’s jails. We’ll have more on that just after the headlines…. ###### San Diego county public health officials reporting 252 new covid-19 infections on thursday and no new deaths. Hospitalizations from the virus were down. That, as Covid-19 vaccine eligibility expanded to people 50 and older. So far about 35% of San Diegians have had at least one dose of vaccine. About 21% of san diegans are fully vaccinated. The state’s goal is to vaccinate 75% of the population to achieve herd immunity. ######## San Diego County Tax officials say you have just 11 days left to pay the second installment of your 2020 - 2021 property taxes before there’s a 10% penalty and $10 fee added. They say their offices are still closed to the public, but that you can go online to to make a payment. Online payments will be accepted up until midnight on April 12th. ######## Opening day for the Padres was last night. The home team won the first game of their season 8 to 7 against the Arizona Diamondbacks. ######### From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now. Stay with me for more of the local news you need. County jails are supposed to be places where people arrested and charged with crimes are held for a brief time while they make bail or await their day in court. But KPBS investigative reporter Claire Trageser says in San Diego County, at least 380 people have spent more than a year in county jails. “I was fearful for his life.” Gina Burns is talking about her son, Bernard, who’s been in jail waiting for his trial to finish for almost three years Gina Burns Mother of Jail Inmate “Because you keep telling them that he needs help, this and that, and they just ignore it, they ignore it.” He’s one of at least 380 people who have spent more than a year in San Diego jails, according to records obtained by the news organization CalMatters. They’re either waiting for their trials to begin, or waiting for additional hearings or sentencing. But unlike the majority of defendants, they are doing that waiting not from home, but in jail. The records also show that three people have been in San Diego jails for more than five years. Another 20 have been in jail for more than three years. “These pretrial detentions can be absolutely devastating.” Michael Semanchik is the managing attorney for the California Innocence Project. “When you sentence someone to prison, they have a yard, educational opportunities, jobs, they’re set up for longer term living, and jails are not set up for that... 00:22:02:11 So when you’re thinking about keeping people in pretrial detention for longer periods of time, where they’re just sitting around, it’s really detrimental.” In California, defendants have the right to a trial that begins within 60 days for a felony, 30 days for a misdemeanor. But according to the CalMatters report, there are several reasons why people might wait in jail for much longer. Defense attorneys waive their client’s right to a speedy trial to get extra time to prepare. Or stacked court schedules lead to delays. All of this has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Emergency orders allowed judges to delay trial dates. And jury trials can not be done virtually. Rachel Solov is a chief deputy district attorney for San Diego. We had a period of time courts shut down completely, since the end of last year started trials, but it’s slow going, don’t have as many courtrooms, COVID courtrooms had to be retrofitted, so it was safe to do those trials in the courtrooms. But the trial backlog could continue long into the future. That was KPBS Investigative Reporter Claire Trageser. ########## Many of California’s 1,200 nursing homes morphed into Covid-19 death traps over the last year. KPBS’s Amita Sharma says the alarming death rate has prompted a slew of state bills aimed at making the homes safer and their owners more accountable. One in four Covid-19 deaths in California were in nursing homes. Advocates say the blame rests on chronic understaffing, poor infection control, weak oversight and opaque ownership that puts profits over people. Now, lawmakers have released a package of bills that, among other things, would stiffen penalties for nursing home misconduct, expand liability for patient rights violations, and mandate that owners be financially transparent. “This to me, is our one shot at going big, in doing something comprehensive and sufficiently aggressive. The politics are not in our favor. Typically, it took this level of outrage to actually build us the political space to move this kind of reform through, because these tragedies didn't just start with covid, but on the heels of that crisis, we're going to try to make things right. State Senator Henry Stern also said he expects the nursing home industry to lobby hard against the reform package. Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer, says it’s a fraught strategy. I don't think the nursing home or the nursing facilities want to be in a position where they have to say that they don't want to provide better quality care for their patients.....And so I'm battle worn. I've been battle tested, so I'm ready for the fight. A statewide nursing home lobbying group declined comment. That was KPBS’ Amita Sharma. ########## Ahead of Easter Sunday, a program to bring COVID-19 testing to Black churches is launching in San Diego. KPBS Reporter Melissa Mae says it's a statewide call to action... with a mission of saving lives. New COVID-19 testing sites are coming to Black churches across San Diego county, thanks to a partnership between the county health department, the Tabernacle Community Development Corporation and the African American Community Empowerment Council. Reverend Judi Wortham is Tabernacle Development’s Southern California director for the COVID-19 Testing Program. She says the Black community may be nervous to get tested, but these walkup testing sites welcome all. Rev. Judi Wortham/Tabernacle Development “No need to make an appointment. No need to have health insurance. No need to be afraid to get tested at the one place trusted by African-Americans, our Black churches.” Church leaders say Black churches are well-positioned to inform the community about the importance of COVID-19 testing and to provide a known, safe space for accessing testing. Bishop William A. Benson of the Total Deliverance Worship Center is grateful the church is seen as a valuable partner in fighting against COVID-19. Bishop William A. Benson/Total Deliverance Worship Center “We have joined with such a marvelous group of professional individuals who are teaching us to rid the paranoias of fear of Doctors and procedures.” Community-based testing remains a core strategy to reducing virus transmission and mortality. Bishop William A. Benson/Total Deliverance Worship Center “We want to be healthy. We want our families to be healthy. We want our community to be healthy and we definitely want our parishioners to be healthy.” Three new sites will open starting today at the Total Deliverance Worship Center, Bethel AME Church and the Bayview Baptist Church. The program goal is to test 150 individuals daily at each location through June 30th. Melissa Mae KPBS News And that was KPBS’ Melissa Mae. ########## Everyone age 50 and older are now eligible to get a COVID 19 vaccine. But, being eligible is just the first step on the road to getting vaccinated. Next up, is scheduling an appointment . That process is riddled with technology challenges and not enough appointments to meet the need. Dr. Bob Gillespie is a Sharp physician and the medical director of the San Diego Black Nurses Association. The group is finding a way to make it easier for African Americans to be vaccinated. Dr. Gillespie spoke with Midday Edition host Jade Hindemon. Dr. Bob Gillespie is a Sharp physician and the medical director of the San Diego Black Nurses Association. ########## Coming up.... “This is going to be part of our operations, our lens, how we look at things is through the environmental justice lens.” The Port of San Diego is changing up how it does business. That’s next, just after the break. The public agency that manages the tidelands around San Diego Bay is considering adjusting the way it does business. KPBS Environmental Reporter Erik Anderson says the Port of San Diego’s new master plan, a planning document for the next three decades, could include a focus on Environmental Justice. When trucks rumble through bayside San Diego neighborhoods some see economic vitality. But the economic payload comes with a cost. A cost that’s frequently paid by neighborhoods like Barrio Logan. “Barrio Logan is in the top five percent of the areas most polluted by diesel pollution in California.” Diane Takvorian works with the Environmental Health Coalition. For 30 years, She’s pushed Barrio Logan residents to lobby the Port of San Diego to clean-up its operations. Takvorian says pollution there pushes local asthma rates up. And that’s not the only health impact. “We have some of the highest rates of COVID infections and mortality in Barrio Logan, National City and other parts of the south Bay. So this is serious. People’s lives depend on it.” Local residents forced the Port to listen as commissioners debated a concrete contract with Mitsubishi late last year. The neighborhood cried out about too much truck traffic linked to the project, and the port shelved the idea, for now. “Over the last several years, there’s been a gradual change toward collaboration.” The Port’s Jason Giffen says the agency is considering doing something that’s rare. They are looking at being one of the first Ports in California to add an Environmental Justice element to their master planning document. Giffen says that’ll help bayside communities. “They have more than their fair share of impacts. We look at this an opportunity and we look at it as a way to guide the future together to reduce impact specifically around some of the neighboring communities around the port.” The change would force the Port to do more than just consider economic, recreational or public access when they consider projects or leases in the tidelands. The agency would have to consider how policies or projects impact nearby neighborhoods. “We’re at a point, an inflection point, where we can set the balance for the next 30 years and really focus on improving air quality, environmental quality. And recently we’ve really seen an investment by the Port and an acceleration into advancing clean water and clean air programs at our marine terminals and also in the working waterfront.” The Port is already moving to electrify vehicles at the Port’s marine terminals. There are efforts to move truck traffic around residential neighborhoods. And there’s a push to increase access to transit. But the Environmental Health Coalition’s long-time leader eyes the move with some skepticism. “It’s a good sentiment and it’s an important goal. But what’s really important is that they actually materialize that in the actions that they take.” The push to keep environmental justice from being a paper change has allies on the board of Port Commissioners. Board Chair Michael Zuchett says the Port wants healthy thriving neighbors. He says clean air is important to him and he thinks electrification of port vehicles is an important strategy. “We want the Port to be a leader on that front, because we’re a public agency and we care about public health but also because those who lead on this issue will get the funding, the grant funding, the support that’s needed to make these transitions. And I want to make sure the port’s on the front side of that.” And the Board of Port Commissioners newest member, Sandy Naranjo from National City, wants to build on progress that’s already happening. “The port is shifting and I want to be, as my role as Port Commissioner, I want to push for that, so we can be leading not just in our region, but in our state, nationally.” Naranjo brings a history of community activism to the job and she is excited that the Port’s master planning document will have an environmental justice element. “This is going to be part of our operations, our lens, how we look at things is through the environmental justice lens.” Recovering from the financial hit from the COVID pandemic will grab a lot of attention at the Port this year, but the agency could also keep bayside neighbors in the discussion if environmental justice is part of the business equation. And that was KPBS Environment Reporter Erik Anderson. If you’re looking to indulge in some arts and culture this weekend...KPBS/Arts editor and producer Julia Dixon Evans has these picks for our weekend preview. That’s it for the podcast today. Be sure to catch KPBS Midday Edition At Noon on KPBS radio, or check out the Midday podcast. You can also watch KPBS Evening Edition at 5 O’clock on KPBS Television, and as always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Annica Colbert. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

At least 380 inmates who either can't afford bail, or weren't granted it, have spent more than a year in local jails. That's not how the system is supposed to work. Also, attempts to better regulate nursing homes in the state in the post-pandemic era. And COVID-19 testing at Black churches.