Flags over state Capitol
Flags over the California Capitol in Sacramento. Courtesy of Sen. Toni Atkins’ office

A bill introduced by Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, which aims to increase oversight and accountability in connection with in-custody deaths, was approved by state Senate Wednesday and is headed to Gov. Gavin Newsom‘s desk.

Senate Bill 519, which passed 31-4, was written in response to rising death rates among the incarcerated in San Diego and other California counties.

The bill would make investigatory reports of in-custody deaths public and create a director of in-custody death review position within the Board of State and Community Corrections, which oversees the state’s county jails and juvenile detention facilities.

Licensed medical professionals and behavioral health professionals would also take part in the review of death investigations and establish health and behavioral standards at 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,” Atkins said.

“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.”

There were 18 in-custody deaths in San Diego County jails in 2021 and 20 in 2022, according to a statement from Atkins’ office. There have been 11 this year.

City News Service contributed to this article.