by Photo courtesy of the San Diego Sherifs Department

State lawmakers introduced a new bill that would protect the lives of inmates while in the custody of the San Diego County Sheriffs Department.

Local leaders introduced Assembly Bill 2343 a month following the scathing report from the California State Auditor, who revealed 185 inmate deaths inside county jails within 15 years between 2006 and 2020. The report says the Sheriff’s Department “did not take sufficient steps to prevent the high number of deaths.”

The bill, also known as the Saving Lives in Custody Act, will tighten practices within the Sheriff's Department, especially in evaluating inmates' mental health.  

It will work to address systemic deficiencies that have resulted in the deaths of individuals in custody.

According to Assemblywoman Akilah Weber, the La Mesa Democrat who introduced the legislation, an additional 21 deaths were reported in 2021. The bill aims to address what lawmakers said were systemic deficiencies in local jails, by raising the standard of care for prisoners.

The legislation outlines and revises the Board of State and Community Corrections policies, focusing on best practices to performing intake health evaluations, training, safety checks, and more.

This past week, the death of 22-year-old male William Schuck, who was arrested March 10 and found in his cell unresponsive on Wednesday, according to a San Diego County Sheriff’s Department news release. 

Another man in San Diego Central Jail was found unresponsive in his cell late Thursday at the Central Jail, though the cause is reportedly under investigation. The Sheriffs department stated that the 46-year-old inmate Lonnie Newton Rupard was found unresponsive in his cell and was transported to an area hospital where he was pronounced dead. 

Assembly Bill 2343, was co-authored by San Diego area Senators Toni Atkins and Ben Hueso, and Assemblymembers Brian Maienschein, Tasha Boerner Horvath, and Chris Ward.

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