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Take action to prevent a COVID19 catastrophe in Santa Rita Jail

Call DA O'Malley and sign petition to county officials

1. Sign the petition today to prevent a COVID19 catastrophe in Santa Rita Jail

2. Call Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley to urge her to release people in Santa Rita identified by other department heads for immediate release. Call: 510-272-6866 or 510-268-7500

Call script: "Hello, my name is ______. I am concerned about the safety of everyone inside Santa Rita Jail. I urge the District Attorney to trust the recommendations of fellow department leaders and immediately sign off on all of the individuals they have identified for immediate release. These include people who are over 50 years old, are immuno-compromised, or are scheduled for release this year. The risks to health for some are now risks to health for all of us. Please don't put people's lives at risk by delaying the review process. Thank you."

Santa Rita Jail in the COVID19 Pandemic 
Statement by the American Friends Service Committee

March 20, 2020

The current crisis shows compellingly how risks to the health of one are risks to the health of all of us. Society historically has desired to ignore, to punish, and to throw away people who are incarcerated, especially people of color and others who are already structurally marginalized. Today, in a pandemic, the relentless spread of COVID-19 makes doubling down on such cruelty toward those who are incarcerated a failing and disastrous strategy. 

The incarceration of people in Santa Rita Jail in Dublin represents one of the most serious public health risks in the East Bay. The denial of cleaning supplies for prisoners at Santa Rita, use of isolation, and other institutional problems already made Santa Rita dangerous for health, with 47 in-custody deaths since 2014. People in the jail face rooms with feces, blood, and vomit in cells and bathrooms used by 30 people, where cleaning supplies are provided only once a week for 15 minutes.[1] 

In these conditions, county officials must take decisive steps – as they have for people outside jail – to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak in Santa Rita Jail, while respecting the rights of all those affected.

District Attorneys from 33 jurisdictions across the country, including San Francisco and Contra Costa Counties, have called for the immediate release from jails of individuals who are older, have conditions such as asthma, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and lung disease, have six months or less left on their sentences, or are incarcerated for technical parole or probation violations. The Alameda County Public Defender on March 12 urged similar measures for Santa Rita Jail, including people who are over 50 years old, in addition to those who face misdemeanors or non-serious felonies. 

Fifty community organizations, led by Human Impact Partners and the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, on March 17 urged progressive releases from Santa Rita Jail by the end of this month, stopping the incarceration of people into Santa Rita, actions to meet needs of those in jail, and investment in health care, affordable housing, and education. Prisoners are being released in other jurisdictions, including Santa Clara County, and reportedly 85,000 prisoners in Iran. 

The response to date by Alameda County officials has been woefully inadequate. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office announced on March 17 that it was booking only people charged with serious offenses. Yesterday, county authorities announced that 247 prisoners with less than 45 days on their sentences will be released, and a further 67 prisoners awaiting trial were being released, with promises to return for court dates. Yet these releases represent less than the average for four days of the number of people who are brought in and incarcerated in Santa Rita, which admits nearly 30,000 people annually.[2] More than 2,400 people remain incarcerated in Santa Rita - close to the average jail population last year.  Eighty-five percent of those incarcerated at Santa Rita have not been sentenced for any crime. 

Sign this petition organized by Faith in Action East Bay to prevent the coronavirus from spreading in Santa Rita Jail and beyond. 

Seven Principles for county, state and federal policy and practice:

1. Law enforcement should cease arrests and booking of people except for the most serious offenses. 

2. Prisons and jails should immediately release not only those who are vulnerable to complications from COVID19 – older people and those with underlying conditions – but other prison populations, such as those with limited time left in their sentences or who are not at high risk of committing serious offenses – in order to reduce risks of infection. Any risks of release of prisoners must be weighed against not only the demands of justice and compassion, but against the public health risks of virus transmission among confined populations and those who work with them.

3. Conditions for health and self-care for people who are in detention, jails and prisons should be as protective and preventative as those for people outside state-run facilities. This is essential both to protect public health and to practice justice. The coronavirus impacts all of us. We must “flatten the curve” of the coronavirus’ spread inside jails and prisons as well as outside. 

4. “Social distancing” in jails and prisons should never include implementing solitary confinement, which constitutes a punishment. Given how long this emergency is expected to last, it will also constitute torture under internationally accepted definitions

5. Like all of us, prisoners need safe contact with loved ones and others through phone calls and visits. Prisons and jails should provide free phone calls at times when visits are impossible, including video calls, especially for deaf people and family members. 

6. Our communities must support - and public officials must authorize and implement - dedicated resources for emergency housing and food security for people released from jails and those who are unhoused. This is an urgent matter of public health, to enable everyone to practice self-care, hygiene, and social autonomy and distancing.  

7. County, city and state authorities need to work together and coordinate these measures, rather than acting unilaterally.

“For decades people who are currently or formerly incarcerated have led the fight to end mass criminalization, incarceration, and state surveillance in the United States. All along, they have been shining a spotlight on the harmful, dehumanizing, and unsanitary conditions of confinement in jails, prisons, and detention centers. At the same time, they have rightly questioned why we as a society continue to use punitive responses to issues that are largely social, political, or economic in nature. Alameda County has been no exception. For years incarcerated Alameda County residents and their loved ones have risen up to share testimony and reject the horrid conditions inside our county jails. The county has been sued numerous times for jail-based health abuses for everything from lack of access to reproductive health services to wrongful deaths. Santa Rita Jail (and Glenn Dyer Jail before it closed) has never been a safe or healthy place for our beloved community members. Multiple coalitions, campaigns, work stoppages, and hunger strikes inside Santa Rita Jail have highlighted these efforts.”   - Letter from 44 community organizations to Alameda County officials, March 17, 2020

 [1]  Testimony by attorney Yolanda Huang, before Alameda County Board of Supervisors, March 17, 2020, at Minute 17.
[2] American Corrections Association reports on Santa Rita Jail, 2016 and 2017, released through Public Records Act request.

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