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San Diego County's Sheriff Aims to Reduce In-Custody Deaths

The region's prisons have the highest incarceration mortality statistics among the large prison systems in the State of California
Kelly A. Martinez is San Diego County's New Sheriff

More than two hundred people have lost their lives for various reasons within the different detention centers in San Diego County from 2006 to date.

The region's prisons have the highest incarceration mortality statistics among the large prison systems in the State of California. Some deaths are linked to drug use that was smuggled into jails across the region. 

Solving this problem is one of the challenges of the new head of the San Diego Sheriff's Department.

“We know that there are people who will enter custody and that there are addicted people, that there is a market for it in people, so they hide the drugs not only in them but inside their bodies and our job is to find those drugs when they enter, we also have drugs that enter through the mail, others through visitors, others that are given to them while they are in court, so we have many review processes for women and men, investigations to find out who brings drugs into prisons and thus avoid it San Diego County Sheriff Kelly A. Martinez said during her inauguration ceremony.

Eighteen people lost their lives inside prisons in 2021, and in the following year, twenty fatalities were recorded in San Diego detention centers.

The new sheriff has promised to improve prison conditions, a challenge that began in 2022 when she was deputy sheriff, with the modernization of facilities, hiring more personnel to support the current workforce, and making medical care more efficient.

“We found out a few years ago that we had high suicide rates in our prisons so we worked really hard to prevent it and trained our workers on it so they could better identify who might present this situation and who might need mental health care, so now Many of those problems have revolved around drug use so we need to keep them out of our prisons, do a better job of identifying people who might have a substance abuse problem, provide alternative medication, and have drug reduction strategies. damage" said Martinez. 

As of 2022, the Sheriff's Department's Critical Incident Review Board (CIRB) reviews all deaths in custody and has expanded its responsibilities to include reviews of natural deaths that occur in jails.

To keep prison staff, new incentives are offered, such as salary increases for working night shifts.

With the objective of improving the Medical and Mental Health Care of inmates, a contract was signed to provide additional staff and services as necessary and guarantees that people in custody are evaluated and treated in a timely manner.

New Sheriff Martinez will seek to provide greater transparency and accountability to the public during her term in office.