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Senate Bill expanding oversight of in-custody deaths statewide heads to Governor’s desk

Official Seal of the State of California

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Senate Bill 519, authored by Senate Leader Toni Atkins, passed the Senate floor on Wednesday on a 31-4 vote and now awaits the Governor's signature to become law.

The bill would expand oversight concerning in-custody death investigations at county jails statewide in the following ways:

  • Make investigatory reports of in-custody deaths conducted by a sheriff's department public by limiting the broad exceptions to public review that exist in existing state law
  • Creating the position of Director of In-Custody Death Review on the Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC). The new Director position would be appointed by the Governor's Office and confirmed by the State Senate to a six-year term and would review in-custody death investigations, make correctional policy recommendations, and require sheriff's departments to respond within 90 days of inquiry as well as make those responses public
  • Require the BSCC to employ a sufficient number of licensed medical professionals and behavioral health professionals to participate in investigation reviews, establish medical and behavioral health standards for local detention facilities, and review delivery of medical and behavioral health services at local detention facilities

"Local detention centers have unfortunately been slow to address internal issues and in many cases unresponsive, as it relates to the alarming increase in deaths of persons in-custody. This is a growing problem not only here in San Diego County, but at other detention facilities around the state," explained Senate Leader Atkins of San Diego. “It’s critical for our communities and for families to have more transparency and accountability. SB 519 would give families the transparency they deserve and provide enough oversight so that the county can work to reduce further deaths.”

Santa Barbara County has seen a notable increase in instances of overdoses at the County's Main Jail and, as the agency responsible for both managing detention facilities and reviewing in-custody deaths, are often the only source of information for reported in-custody deaths and subsequent investigations.

Article Topic Follows: California
correctional facilties
law enforcement
public oversight
Santa Barbara
sheriff's departments
state legislation

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Andrew Gillies

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