In May, CityBeat associate editor Kelly Davis wrote about Robin Reid, a woman with terminal cancer who'd been sentenced to four years in jail on charges stemming from her erotic-massage business. Reid had been granted a "special" sentence by the District Attorney's office: She was jailed Mondays through Wednesdays and allowed to leave Thursday mornings to receive chemotherapy.
Reid died on Oct. 15 after entering hospice care in late September. With help from the ACLU and the cooperation of the county sheriff, she'd been released to home detention in July—after spending nearly nine months checking in and out of jail weekly—but under conditions required of all inmates in the county's alternative-custody program: She was confined to her home except for medical appointments and to run certain errands, had to wear a GPS ankle monitor at all times and was forbidden from using medical marijuana, which had previously helped alleviate chemotherapy side effects.
Reid was grateful for the amended sentence, but home confinement and the ankle monitor made her last few months difficult. Reid's daughter told us that after her mother fell into a coma, she and her aunt cut the ankle monitor off. Reid died the next day.
Reid had hoped that SB 1462, a state law that took effect on Jan. 1, 2013, would help her. Right now, terminally ill and medically incapacitated prison inmates can request what's known as "compassionate release," but inmates in county jails don't have that option. Under realignment, Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to reduce prison overcrowding, certain low-risk inmates are serving out their sentences in county jails, instead of state prisons. Prior to realignment, the average jail stay was 75 days; now, it can be several years, meaning jails will be housing—and providing medical care to—more critically ill inmates. SB 1462 allows sheriffs to grant compassionate release.
But, SB 1462's implementation has been delayed while the state sets up a process to ensure that indigent inmates released under the new law will have Medi-Cal coverage. Reid got caught up in that delay even though she had private insurance. Currently, two counties, Los Angeles and Orange, are running SB 1462 pilot programs, and beginning next month, other counties will have the option to implement the law.
Realignment requires the statewide corrections system to be smart with how limited resources are used—who should be held on bail, who should be released to probation and under what conditions. L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca, whose office co-authored SB 1462, estimated that while only around 10 inmates would qualify annually for compassionate release from his jails, the savings on medical costs—$7.3 million—is substantial.
The San Diego County Board of Supervisors must approve full local implementation of the law at the earliest opportunity. Reid's is a unique case, but as more people are sentenced to longer jail terms, there will be more inmates like her.
Stick to the plan
On Dec. 17, the San Diego City Council will choose either to rescind its approval of an update to the Barrio Logan Community Plan or to place a referendum on the ballot that, if approved by voters, would nix the long-awaited plan update.
We strongly urge the council to stick to its guns and refuse to rescind the plan update, which was years in the making and a product of a proper public process and compromise. The council should not cower, as U-T San Diego would have it do, in the shadow of the business interests who don't like the way the update turned out.
Those interests and their supporters—including Kevin Faulconer, a candidate for mayor—have been misleading the public, or flat-out lying, about what the plan update will mean for Barrio Logan and the adjacent shipyards. Just this week, City Councilmember Lorie Zapf said in an email to prospective donors to her 2014 campaign that in approving the update, the council "voted for the termination of thousands of jobs at the port." That's a brazen lie, and Zapf ought to be ashamed.
Because the shipyard lobby managed to get the required number of petition signatures, the council is legally obligated to place the referendum on the ballot, but before they vote to do so, the five Democrats on the council who support the plan update should call out and condemn the deception that helped bring us to this stage.
What do you think? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.