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.”
When the San Diego Sheriff’s Department signed a five-year, $21 million agreement for psychiatric care in its jails, it picked a provider with no track record of delivering mental health services to inmates.
Dozens of inmates died over the 27 months that CPMG was responsible for mental health care inside the county jail system, according to Sheriff’s Department records.
The Mannis deposition was unsealed last week, along with hundreds of pages of other documents in a civil case filed by the family of Ruben Nunez, a San Diego Central Jail inmate who died from water intoxication in the jail even though his medical record included multiple warnings that he needed to be kept away from water.
Julia Yoo, a partner in the law firm representing the Nunez family, said the Sheriff’s Department should learn from the lapses in treatment for inmates and in oversight of contractors.
San Diego County jail’s leading mortality rate is costing county millions of dollars in lawsuit payouts
At least 140 people have died in San Diego County jails since 2009, the year Bill Gore took over as sheriff. That’s an average higher than one inmate per month, every month, over the past 10 years. A six-month investigation by The San Diego Union-Tribune shows that the county’s jail mortality rate is the highest among California’s largest county jail systems. The grim history shows no sign of waning.
“A measure of society is how we treat our most vulnerable. By that measure, San Diego County is failing miserably,” said Julia Yoo, a San Diego attorney who has sued the sheriff repeatedly on behalf of deceased inmates’ families.
Whether the newly installed Trump DOJ will be of the same view remains an open question. Indeed, early impressions suggest that the basic premise of the amicus brief—that critical commentary of police is valuable in a democracy—won’t find much purchase in a “law and order” regime. Having previously argued in an amicus brief for a broad reading of the First Amendment, it remains to be seen whether the next attorney general will ensure that the positions the DOJ takes in court remain consistent with the institution’s solemn obligation to always defend the citizenry’s constitutional rights.
Lawyers in San Diego and beyond worry the prosecution of a lawyer who represents a marijuana business could force a central tenet of practicing law – attorney-client privilege – to go up in smoke.
Washington Post: Border agents beat an undocumented immigrant to death. The U.S. is paying his family $1 million.
The story of Hernandez’s 2010 death at the Tijuana-San Diego border, backed up by the video on that card, exemplified the brutality of the law enforcement officers who patrolled the border and the impunity with which they act, advocates for Border Patrol reform say.
Washington Post: U.S. border officers told a Mexican teen to drink liquid meth. His family received $1 million for his death.
“Mi corazón! Mi corazón!” Acevedo screamed, according to court records — “My heart! My heart!” He was dead about two hours later.
Three years ago this week, Daniel Chong made news around the world when the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration admitted that its agents accidentally left him in a temporary cell for five days without food or water.
Daniel Chong, a UC San Diego student, was detained in 2012 for what he was told would be five minutes after he was swept up in a drug bust at a friend’s house, where he had been smoking marijuana.