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San Diego Legislative Leaders Introduce Legislation to Address Inmate Safety and Prevent Deaths of Individuals in Custody

For immediate release:

SAN DIEGO – Today, Assemblymember Dr. Akilah Weber (D-San Diego) was joined by Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins, Assemblymember Chris Ward, Clovis Honore representing the San Diego Racial Justice Coalition and the North County Equity and Justice Coalition, David Lagstein representing SEIU Local 221, and Mr. A.C. Mills, who shared the story about his son Kevin Mills who died while in custody at the San Diego County Central Jail, to announce the introduction of Assembly Bill 2343, the Saving Lives in Custody Act. This bill would ensure the minimum local detention standards are revised to equitably maintain the safety and specialized needs of all incarcerated individuals.  

In May 2021, Assemblymember Dr. Akilah Weber along with the Democratic members of the San Diego Delegation responded to the public concern and reports regarding the high number of deaths in San Diego County jails by requesting a state audit through the Joint Legislative Audit Committee. In February 2022, the State Auditor’s Office released its report with the findings from the audit.

“The audit report revealed disturbing facts regarding the inadequate processes and protocols within county jails,” said Assemblymember Dr. Akilah Weber. “What was especially unsettling to me is that many of these deaths are preventable. The California Board of State and Community Corrections is tasked with establishing the minimum standards for jail systems to follow, and it is time to update those practices to ensure we are preventing the loss of life due to inadequate medical care for individuals in custody.”

AB 2343 will address systemic deficiencies that have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of individuals in jail custody. This bill outlines and revises the Board of State and Community Corrections policies to align with best practices related to performing intake health evaluations, training, conducting safety checks, and addressing the other deficiencies to reduce suicide risk and related health needs. 

“My bill is a result of the advocacy of many community groups that have called attention to this issue. I am grateful for my colleagues who have co-authored the audit request last year and are now co-authoring AB 2343. We must continue to do right by those in custody to ensure they are treated with dignity,” said Assemblymember Dr. Akilah Weber.

What others are saying about AB 2343: 

“The tragic loss of life detailed in the California State Auditor’s report doesn’t just reflect statistics or cases. These were people who didn’t deserve to die because of a breakdown in policies and previous oversight,” said Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego). “I am proud to serve as a principal co-author with Dr. Akilah Weber on AB 2343, the Saving Lives in Custody Act. This legislation will ensure that our jail systems meet our expectations and standards for care that policies and practices are transparent, and the staff is properly trained and held accountable. All people should be treated with dignity, including those in custody.”

“The recent report released by the California State Auditor has confirmed what many in San Diego have raised concerns about … there has been systemic failures within our county jails that have resulted in the tragic loss of life,” said Assemblymember Chris Ward (D-San Diego). “It is clear that our county correctional facilities are in need of thoughtful and direct policy guidance to ensure the mental and physical health of our incarcerated populations. I am proud to stand with Assemblymember Weber and my colleagues in the San Diego delegation and to co-author the Saving Lives in Custody Act which takes steps to meaningfully address these failures.”

“We the ‘Saving Lives in Custody Campaign’ sincerely thank Dr. Akilah Weber and her colleagues for advancing the Saving Lives in Custody Act. San Diego County is in crisis, a crisis of neglect, incompetence, and dereliction of duty. Process failures which remain unresolved are still killing San Diegans with most recent loss happening within the past 24hrs of writing this article. Compassion and professionalism will not be a universal commodity in our jails until Transparency and Accountability is the order of the day,” said Yusef Miller, Co-Founder, Saving Lives in Custody Campaign.

“The findings from our state audit of San Diego County jails were alarming. Far too many inmates in the county and throughout our state do not have access to stable mental health care. As a Co-author of AB 2343, I am confident that this bill will equip jails with the proper amount of mental health training and staff to prevent what our audit uncovered from happening at other facilities across the state,” said Assemblymember Brian Maienschein (D-San Diego). 

“Every person in custody at a jail is someone’s brother, mother, cousin, or uncle and they deserve adequate medical and mental health care,” said Nathan Fletcher, Chair of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. “The Saving Lives in Custody Act establishes standards for delivering treatment to people in our correctional facilities statewide, and directly addresses the concerns outlined in the State Audit of the San Diego County Jails. I want to thank Assemblymember Weber and the entire San Diego delegation for taking swift action to drive change.” 

The full text of AB 2343 can be found here: