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Opinion: Assessment board is correct about medication in jails. The complete Sheriff’s Division is accountable.

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The Residents’ Legislation Enforcement Assessment Board — the unbiased panel that oversees the San Diego County Sheriff’s Division — took a shrewd and welcome step Tuesday in reacting to the loss of life of Saxon Rodriguez, who collapsed after a drug overdose in his cell within the Males’s Central Jail in Downtown San Diego on July 20, 2021.

As an alternative of focusing on particular jail staff for his or her failings, the board faulted all the division for its incapacity to carry out the essential activity of retaining unlawful medication out of its jails. It discovered that “there isn’t a doubt that Rodriguez, whereas as an incarcerated particular person within the custody and underneath the care of the SDSD, acquired and took fentanyl and methamphetamine, which resulted in his loss of life.” The 22-year-old Chula Vistan was solely one of many greater than 160 individuals who have died in county custody since 2009. Twenty inmates have died this 12 months alone.

Earlier than his retirement in February, Sheriff Invoice Gore usually minimized the county’s jail loss of life numbers as unsurprising, rejecting or ignoring the proof that the loss of life price was a lot larger than in different massive California counties. However Gore was on strong floor when he linked jail deaths to the nationwide fentanyl disaster, which has lengthy since left behind the crack and heroin epidemics to turn into probably the most deadly unlawful U.S. drug scourge ever. He didn’t, nonetheless, act on that perception by taking extraordinary efforts to make sure guests, workers members and inmates alike don’t convey deadly medication into jails. This needs to be the primary precedence of Sheriff-elect Kelly Martinez.

The overview board’s touch upon the Rodriguez case got here as half of a bigger overview of jails that discovered the county was not strictly following state guidelines requiring that guards guarantee each inmate is alive and nicely each hour. As an alternative of “direct visible remark of incarcerated individuals,” the overview board workers discovered that cursory checks had been widespread. After years of harsh headlines about jail deaths and concerning the tens of millions of {dollars} that county taxpayers have needed to pay due to associated lawsuits, that’s laborious to imagine.

Regardless of being a division veteran — and being endorsed by Gore — Martinez has vowed to be a change agent who doesn’t hesitate to rock the boat. However this isn’t about rocking the board. It’s about deputies and different jail personnel doing what needs to be absolutely the naked minimal of their jobs: retaining alive the inmates underneath their management.

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