Thursday, May 16, 2013

Grand Jury creates false report regarding deaths at San Diego County jails

City Beat has done a high-profile in-depth series on jail deaths. Is it possible that not a single grand jury member bothered to Google the subject before signing off on a false report? No. The members couldn't all be that incompetent. They were chosen for the grand jury because they're all "team players". So what's the point of having a grand jury?

This story reminds me of a Los Angeles Times story about the "know-nothing" Medical Board of California.

Grave error: San Diego County Grand Jury reports incorrect jail-mortality figures
By Dave Maass
City Beat
May 14, 2013

The San Diego County Grand Jury issued its annual inspection reports for the regional jail system, praising the San Diego County Sheriff for its "efficiency and dedication of the staff at each of the county detention facilities."

But would those remarks glow so brightly if the Grand Jury—a body of 19 citizens empaneled to investigate complaints against public officials and inspect detention facilities—had received accurate information about deaths in the county’s jails?

According to the report, the Grand Jury noted that there were four deaths—including two suicides—at the facility between July 1, 2011, and Aug. 1, 2012. Those numbers are severely inaccurate.

Fact: During that period, 11 inmates died in county jails; five of them were suicides. That’s according to records obtained by CityBeat from the San Diego County Medical Examiner and the Sheriff’s Department through the California Public Records Act.

In “60 Dead Inmates,” an investigative series published during the last two months, CityBeat found that San Diego’s five adult detention facilities collectively had the highest mortality rate of California’s 10 largest jail systems. The Grand Jury received the information directly from the Sheriff’s Department; we have now provided the Grand Jury foreman with copies of the records substantiating the number of deaths.

“The numbers reported were based on information received from the Sheriff’s Department. In reconfirming the information with the Sherriff’s [sic] Department it was determined that the figures previously reported were incorrect. Based on the new information received the Grand Jury will be issuing an amended report to reflect the correct statistics,” Grand Jury Foreman Paul C. Christian wrote in a brief email to CityBeat.

The Sheriff’s Department did not respond to emailed questions.

Two of the inmates CityBeat profiled in its investigative died during the 13-month period examined by the Grand Jury. Shane Hipfel, a bipolar inmate who died after attempting to drown himself in a toilet in the Central Jail’s psychiatric unit, was mentioned in the report, but not by name. A homicide that occurred in jail was not referenced: Russell Hartsaw, a senior citizen who was beaten to death by other inmates at the George Bailey Detention Facility.

It’s possible that the Sheriff’s Department provided the Grand Jury only with statistics from the San Diego County Central Jail, where four deaths did occur. Three of them were suicides, one was natural.

If the sheriff did provide inaccurate statistics, it would not be the first time. In 2010, the Sheriff’s Department told the Citizens Law Enforcement Review Board (CLERB)—which is charged with investigating jail deaths and complaints against county law-enforcement officers—that only four inmates had committed suicide in the county jails. The number was used to justify the sheriff’s decision not to implement CLERB recommendations that would’ve addressed suicides in jail.

The accurate number of suicides during those two years is six.

Six is also the number of inmates who have died so far in 2013 in San Diego County jails, including three by suicide and two by drug overdose. The cause of death in the sixth case is unknown. CityBeat is awaiting the Sheriff’s response to a public-records request.

The Grand Jury report makes no mention of CityBeat’s reporting on jail deaths; nor do the inspection reports of juvenile facilities include information on the overuse of pepper spray, which CityBeat reported on in May 2012.

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