Donald Altmark, 71, Died Following Medical Emergency While In Custody of San Diego County Sheriff’s Department

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA (November 14, 2023) – An inmate identified as Donald Altmark has tragically died following a medical emergency while in the custody of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.

San Diego County officials are saying that the incident took place around 7:30 p.m. on Sunday. A nurse found Donald Altmark unresponsive and unconscious.

Medical staff began efforts in order to revive him. Despite those efforts, Donald Altmark was later pronounced dead.

An autopsy later revealed he died of a heart attack. A full investigation remains ongoing at this time.


Liability For San Diego County Inmate Deaths

Thousands of inmates die in custody each year across the United States. According to the UCLA Behind Bars Data Project, “In 2020, at least 6,182 people died in U.S. prisons.  This is a 46% increase in the lives lost behind bars from 2019, despite a 10% decrease in the overall prison population. The U.S. has seen a significant, continual increase in deaths in prisons over the past two decades.” There are a number of factors that could contribute to inmate deaths.

  • Jail deaths are much more likely to take place when jails are overcrowded.
  • Jail deaths are much more likely to occur when jail staff do not have access to Nalaxone.
  • Jail deaths are much more likely to occur when jails are adequately staffed.

Jails have a legal obligation to tend to the medical needs of the inmates that they care for. Each inmate has a unique health profile and will need different levels of medical care. Some inmates may need round the clock care for chronic conditions while other inmates may only need checkups. If a jail is deliberately indifferent to the serious medical needs of an inmate, this could form the basis of a constitutional claim. It is important that evidence is properly preserved after any inmate death.

  • Jail medical records should be sought.
  • An independent autopsy should be performed.
  • It should be known if correctional officers were performing welfare checks as required.
  • It should be determined if an inmate was taking medication.

Jails are often quick to label in-custody deaths as “natural.” But this label can often be highly misleading. Many supposedly natural in-custody deaths involve some amount of jail medical neglect. The family of any person that died in-custody may have legal recourse through a civil claim. A civil rights attorney can examine all of the unique facts of your case and let you know what your legal options are.


Investigating San Diego County Inmate Deaths 

We at the Sehat Law Firm extend our deepest condolences to the family of Donald Altmark. There needs to be a thorough investigation for the sake of this person’s family. Far too many people have died in-custody across San Diego County.

Do you need more information about a San Diego County inmate death? Our team of civil rights attorneys are here to help in any way that we can. We care deeply that inmates are aware of their rights and jails are providing inmates with the healthcare that they need. Whether you just have legal questions or need a free, independent investigation into any in-custody death we are here for you. You can reach out to us anytime at  (949) 825-5200.

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