By Tommy Hough
Earlier today I made remarks to the San Diego County Board of Supervisors regarding Sheriff Bill Gore's request to pursue potential bids for outsourced mental health and basic medical care services to inmates in the county's seven jails.
Ultimately, the board voted 4-1 in support of the sheriff's request, thereby beginning a process in which the sheriff's department may explore bids from private contractors – despite the fact some 300 county employees already work as nurses, clinicians, and other health professionals in the jail system, and could lose their jobs as a result.
As Jeff McDonald reported in the San Diego Union-Tribune, dozens "testified during the hearing that workplace morale is poor, largely due to a perception that Gore does not value their work," but ultimately the board's Republican majority "denied Supervisor Nathan Fletcher's plan to flatly reject the sheriff's proposed outsourcing model."
My remarks today before the Board of Supervisors follow:
Good morning, my name is Tommy Hough, I live in Mira Mesa, county district three.
I'd like to ask you to vote no on this item.
It's disappointing to hear this pathological persistence on the part of some in government to outsource what, in my mind, are the most basic services that are already being capably handled by county employees. The answer is not outsourcing. The answer is getting these dedicated and able employees the support and resources they need to effectively do their jobs for the public and those incarcerated – not for shareholders.
We're not talking about who fills the vending machine, we're talking about who supplies, and who makes, mental health services and life and death decisions.
There's already been a great deal of scrutiny as to what's called the Private Prison Industry, and there should be. The idea that any entity, especially a multi-billion dollar business, is making money, hand over fist, in this nation on the incarceration of other human beings – and in the case of the sheriff’s department, individuals often awaiting trial – is not consistent with what we believe our nation's values to be, or our county's.
Incarcerated individuals and those awaiting trial must have a meaningful level of care. My neighbors deserve to keep their jobs with the county serving their neighbors in the Sheriff's Department – and for-profit companies must never run prisons or jail services.
Please vote NO on the sheriff's proposal to outsource and privatize these critical services.
Photo courtesy of the San Diego County Sheriff's Department
A former San Diego broadcaster and media personality, Tommy Hough is a wilderness and conservation advocate, communications professional, California Democratic Party delegate, and the co-founder and former president of San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action.