The following is a prepared testimony urging the San Diego County Board of Supervisors to support Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer’s proposed data-driven approach to public safety. ACLU-SDIC Policy Advocate Esmeralda Flores delivered the testimony on October 19, 2021.

Good morning Chairman Fletcher and Supervisors,

My name is Esmeralda Flores. I am a policy advocate with the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. The ACLU is a proud member of the Invest in San Diego Families coalition and the Coalition for Police Accountability & Transparency.

We are here to urge this board to vote in support of a data-driven approach to public safety proposed and led by Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer. We believe this approach will help to effectively and permanently reduce the San Diego County jail populations. Thank you, Supervisor Lawson-Remer, for leading this important effort.

San Diego County residents deserve to live in communities that are free, safe, healthy and thriving. To help ensure this for all San Diegans, we must divest from racist systems of policing and incarceration and instead build systems of care for our communities.

Overreliance on incarceration does not make our region safer. In fact, it is ineffective and puts the lives of people who are incarcerated in danger.

  • San Diego County jails have the highest mortality rate among the state’s largest counties with an average of 12.8 deaths per year.
  • According to a San Diego Union Tribune investigation, the number of suicides in San Diego County jails increased by 70 percent between 2009 and 2018.

Research shows that the U.S. has had more Covid-19 cases and deaths in jails than any other country due to our nation’s high incarceration rates; and that we could significantly reduce these numbers by simply reducing the jail populations.

San Diego County took steps to reduce jail populations during the pandemic’s early days. We must work to expand these measures. We must also continue to identify alternatives to incarceration and better approaches to improve the health and well-being of all San Diego communities.  

We urge this board to vote in favor of adopting Supervisor Lawson-Remer’s data-driven approach to public safety. We must stop incarcerating adults and children, divest from jails, and deepen our investment of money and resources in community services, non-law enforcement interventions, and alternatives to incarceration. Because our communities deserve care, not criminalization.

Thank you for your time and consideration.