Families of people who’ve died while in Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department custody took to the streets of downtown Los Angeles Tuesday morning to protest their loves ones’ treatment.

In August, Michelle Parris of the Vera Institute of Justice said in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece that 26 people had died in county jails in 2013.

As of mid-September, that number had grown to 31, according to advocacy organization Dignity and Power Now, prompting the families to call for the closure of Men’s Central Jail and an end to in-custody deaths.

Helen Jones, a community organizer with DPN and mother of a person who died in custody, said “MCJ should have been closed over 30 years ago.”

“Many families no longer see this as a jail but as a memorial for our children, our family members, and our community members whose lives have been stolen inside this cement slave ship,” she said in a DPN press release. “They have tortured, murdered, beaten, abused, intentionally neglected and falsely imprisoned our children and loved ones. Leaving them in solitary confinement to intentionally separate them from their family members and to hide their injuries and the abuse inflicted on our loved ones by the deadly Deputy Sheriff gang members.”

D. Pulane Lucas, whose son Stanley Wilson Jr. died in custody earlier this year, said her son’s role as “a student leader, track star, and football player at Stanford University who went on to play in the NFL for the Detroit Lions” didn’t stop her from getting “the worst possible news any mother could get.”

“The tragic and untimely deaths of our loved ones have heightened our concern for the rising number of in-custody deaths and the failure to track the number of people who are dying in LASD custody,” she said. “Our loved ones deserved to be protected in life and counted in death—because the lives and deaths of those inside matter!”

The LASD on Tuesday issued a response to the allegations.

“We house and care for approximately 12,000 inmates in our seven jail facilities on any given day,” the department said. “Any loss of life is tragic especially those who are within our custody. The Sheriff’s Department and our Correctional Heath partners thoroughly investigate each in-custody death for policy and procedure issues and assessment of care. The Department oversight bodies are encouraged to participate in the review process and are present to discuss corrective or preventative action. The Department takes every in-custody death seriously and strives to make every effort possible to prevent similar deaths in the future.”

Sofia Pop Perez contributed to this report.