Four prisoners dead in six weeks: the crisis unfolding in San Diego county jails
Four deaths in six weeks is troubling, Aaron Fischer, an attorney with Disability Rights California who co-wrote last year’s report, told the Guardian in response to the latest incidents. “When someone dies by suicide in a system’s highest level of care, there is enormous cause for concern about whether the system is capable of keeping people safe,” Fischer said.
The report found the San Diego jails struggled with an over-incarceration of people with mental health-related disabilities, failed to provide adequate mental health treatment to inmates, did not have in place appropriate suicide prevention practices and lacked oversight.
Deaths in San Diego county jails have prompted at least a dozen lawsuits since 2008 and more than $7m in settlements – yet critics say there have been few reforms.
Attorneys such as Julia Yoo, whose firm Iredale & Yoo has represented families in several lawsuits, wonders if the sheriff’s department is learning from previous incidents.
Yoo’s law firm is currently handling two such cases. In one, a man diagnosed with schizophrenia, whose illness caused him to drink water uncontrollably, died of water intoxication after the jail ignored warnings to monitor his water intake. In another case, a schizophrenic man was Tasered four times and suffered cardiac arrest after deputies pinned him to the ground.
“It seems like there are ways for the sheriff’s department to fix the problem,” Yoo said, “but they don’t, and here we go again.”