Good evening, Chairman Fletcher and Supervisors.
My name is Esmeralda Flores. I am a policy advocate with the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. We are a proud member of the Invest in San Diego Families coalition. We believe everyone deserves to live in communities that are free, safe, healthy and thriving.
Last year this Board took unprecedented steps to develop a county budget that addresses the priority needs of our diverse region.
One important step was the creation of an Immigrant Rights Legal Defense program to provide immigrants detained in our region with legal representation, something the federal government does not do.
The right to counsel is fundamental to fairness and justice in our country.,
The San Diego County Immigrant Rights Legal Defense program makes our nation’s immigration system more just and humane. We urge the Board to vote in favor of $5 million in continued investment in this vital program.
Another important step was the Board’s adoption of a data-driven approach to public safety that puts the needs of communities first, and will help reduce San Diego County jail populations effectively and permanently.
Overreliance on incarceration does not make our region safer. And jail as our county’s first response to people experiencing homelessness, mental health crises or substance use problems is ineffective, dangerous and unjust.
In February, the California State Auditor released a scathing report citing a host of systemic problems contributing to the high rate of deaths in San Diego County jails. Since the report became public, ten more people have died in our county jails.
We urge the Board to increase its investment in community-based services to address homelessness, mental health and substance use issues in our county. This is safer, more just and as indicated in SANDAG’s May 2022 preliminary report, more cost-effective.
And we urge you to maintain your support of SANDAG research – which we anticipate will incorporate community partners’ input and provide concrete recommendations that expand alternatives to incarceration.
Thank you for your time and consideration.