SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — The San Diego County Sheriff Dept. says it’s made some major changes they believe will help keep inmates safer. The changes come six weeks after a state auditor said its response to the high number of jail deaths was inadequate.
Advocates say these policy changes are long overdue but they’re optimistic about the impact they could have when it comes to saving an inmate’s life.
“It’s been about a month today and I’ve already been to three scenes,” said Paul Parker, the Executive Officer for the Citizens' Law Enforcement Review Board.
The Citizen’s Law Enforcement Review Board is an oversight committee for the San Diego County Sheriff’s Dept. After years of lobbying, Parker says he’s pleased the department has already given him access to jails and other scenes when a death occurs.
“Their Critical Incident Review Board is now going to be looking at natural deaths and somehow, someway, they’re going to be publishing the results. This used to be a board that would meet and not publicize their results,” Parker said.
Interim San Diego County Sheriff Kelly Martinez says the policy changes include more timely and proper safety checks, medication assisted treatment for inmates and more deputies wearing body cameras inside jails. Prisoner rights advocate, Mary Estrada says she’s also encouraged by the changes.
“I think it’s awesome because we need to know what’s going on in there. They’re hired and have taken the oath to protect on the inside. If they’re not doing that, then again, they need to be held accountable,” Estrada said.
The Sheriff’s Department says it’s currently understaffed but they’re making an effort to hire more deputies to implement the new policies.
“We’re going to agree, we’re going to disagree. But I think if everyone is working towards implementing measures that are appropriate to keep folks safe, keep folks alive and to help folks transition back into the community, I think it’s a win for everyone,” Parker said.
Parker says he also believes the new policies will help and are the first step in restoring the community’s trust in law enforcement.
WATCH RELATED: Families of inmates who died in custody respond to scathing audit on county jails (Feb. 2022).