News

Activists call for Santa Rita Jail inmates to be released

Some advocates want all inmates out; sheriff's office takes hard stance on violent offenders

A coalition of activist groups on Thursday called on Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern to release all inmates at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin because they say their health is at risk due to the new coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking at a virtual news conference organized by the Santa Rita Jail Solidarity coalition, Amber Akemi Piatt of the Oakland-based nonprofit Human Impact Partners said, "Release everyone, especially those most vulnerable to getting infected."

James Burch of St. James Infirmary, a nonprofit organization serving sex workers throughout the Bay Area, said a failure by Ahern and Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley to release more inmates from Santa Rita "will lead to the deaths of our loved ones."

The activists held their news conference in the wake of the disclosure on Thursday that 12 inmates at the jail have tested positive for the coronavirus so far, with results for seven additional inmates still pending.

In a separate news release, Alameda County Public Defender Brendon Woods called for the District Attorney's Office and other county court officials to immediately release all inmates who have less than six months or less to serve at the jail.

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"We've been sounding the alarm for more than three weeks and now we're on the verge of the virus sweeping through the jail," Woods said in a statement.

Woods estimated that there are about 115 inmates who are scheduled for release within the next six months, including about 60 who are scheduled to be released by the end of May.

"We want these people out right now. What possible justification can the District Attorney offer to keep them locked up for three more weeks in the midst of this virus?" Woods said. "A county jail sentence should not be a potential death sentence."

The jail had an average of about 2,650 inmates before the coronavirus outbreak but its population is now down to 1,957, sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly said Thursday.

Kelly said Ahern, in conjunction with O'Malley, Woods and Alameda County Superior Court Presiding Judge Tara Desautels, has already released about 600 low-level offenders from Santa Rita.

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Kelly said an additional 54 inmates facing misdemeanor and low-level felony charges appear to be eligible to be released without bail under recent guidelines issued by the California Judicial Council, and another 130 inmates may qualify to be released on low bail amounts.

He said another 214 inmates who've been sentenced could have their terms modified if the district attorney consents.

But Kelly said 90 percent of the inmates at Santa Rita are locked up for violent crimes, including homicides, sexual assaults and crimes against children, and insisted, "We cannot let those people out."

Kelly said, "Beyond every case there are victims and a mass release of inmates would have a tremendous impact on public safety."

He said, "There are jail activists in the community who want us to release everyone and empty the jail and turn the lights off and that isn't going to happen."

Some of the speakers at the Santa Rita Jail Solidarity news conference alleged that health care at the facility is inadequate and inmates who've tested positive for COVID-19 aren't being treated properly.

But Kelly said, "We have a very robust plan in place and that plan is effective."

Kelly said none of the 12 inmates who've tested positive for COVID-19 have had to be hospitalized and "all are stable and appear to be on the road to recovery."

District Attorney spokeswoman Teresa Drenick said in a statement that her office "has been working diligently for weeks with the public defender, all defense attorneys and justice partners to systematically release individuals who do not pose a risk of harm to the community or to a victim of crime."

But Drenick said, "What we cannot do is jeopardize the safety of victims or the community. We must take the necessary care and precaution to ensure the health of those incarcerated and the staff working at the jail without sacrificing the security of victims or well-being of the county."

Drenick said, "It is very disappointing that the Public Defender has chosen this time of crisis to grandstand and to make politically divisive and disingenuous statements when what the circumstances demand of all public officials is unity and collaboration."

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Activists call for Santa Rita Jail inmates to be released

Some advocates want all inmates out; sheriff's office takes hard stance on violent offenders

Uploaded: Thu, Apr 9, 2020, 3:35 pm
Updated: Thu, Apr 9, 2020, 10:14 pm

A coalition of activist groups on Thursday called on Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern to release all inmates at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin because they say their health is at risk due to the new coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking at a virtual news conference organized by the Santa Rita Jail Solidarity coalition, Amber Akemi Piatt of the Oakland-based nonprofit Human Impact Partners said, "Release everyone, especially those most vulnerable to getting infected."

James Burch of St. James Infirmary, a nonprofit organization serving sex workers throughout the Bay Area, said a failure by Ahern and Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley to release more inmates from Santa Rita "will lead to the deaths of our loved ones."

The activists held their news conference in the wake of the disclosure on Thursday that 12 inmates at the jail have tested positive for the coronavirus so far, with results for seven additional inmates still pending.

In a separate news release, Alameda County Public Defender Brendon Woods called for the District Attorney's Office and other county court officials to immediately release all inmates who have less than six months or less to serve at the jail.

"We've been sounding the alarm for more than three weeks and now we're on the verge of the virus sweeping through the jail," Woods said in a statement.

Woods estimated that there are about 115 inmates who are scheduled for release within the next six months, including about 60 who are scheduled to be released by the end of May.

"We want these people out right now. What possible justification can the District Attorney offer to keep them locked up for three more weeks in the midst of this virus?" Woods said. "A county jail sentence should not be a potential death sentence."

The jail had an average of about 2,650 inmates before the coronavirus outbreak but its population is now down to 1,957, sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly said Thursday.

Kelly said Ahern, in conjunction with O'Malley, Woods and Alameda County Superior Court Presiding Judge Tara Desautels, has already released about 600 low-level offenders from Santa Rita.

Kelly said an additional 54 inmates facing misdemeanor and low-level felony charges appear to be eligible to be released without bail under recent guidelines issued by the California Judicial Council, and another 130 inmates may qualify to be released on low bail amounts.

He said another 214 inmates who've been sentenced could have their terms modified if the district attorney consents.

But Kelly said 90 percent of the inmates at Santa Rita are locked up for violent crimes, including homicides, sexual assaults and crimes against children, and insisted, "We cannot let those people out."

Kelly said, "Beyond every case there are victims and a mass release of inmates would have a tremendous impact on public safety."

He said, "There are jail activists in the community who want us to release everyone and empty the jail and turn the lights off and that isn't going to happen."

Some of the speakers at the Santa Rita Jail Solidarity news conference alleged that health care at the facility is inadequate and inmates who've tested positive for COVID-19 aren't being treated properly.

But Kelly said, "We have a very robust plan in place and that plan is effective."

Kelly said none of the 12 inmates who've tested positive for COVID-19 have had to be hospitalized and "all are stable and appear to be on the road to recovery."

District Attorney spokeswoman Teresa Drenick said in a statement that her office "has been working diligently for weeks with the public defender, all defense attorneys and justice partners to systematically release individuals who do not pose a risk of harm to the community or to a victim of crime."

But Drenick said, "What we cannot do is jeopardize the safety of victims or the community. We must take the necessary care and precaution to ensure the health of those incarcerated and the staff working at the jail without sacrificing the security of victims or well-being of the county."

Drenick said, "It is very disappointing that the Public Defender has chosen this time of crisis to grandstand and to make politically divisive and disingenuous statements when what the circumstances demand of all public officials is unity and collaboration."

— Bay City News Service

Comments

A very concerned family member
another community
on Apr 9, 2020 at 6:02 pm
A very concerned family member, another community
on Apr 9, 2020 at 6:02 pm
5 people like this

There are inmates in there that have been wrongfully incarcerated and wrongfully sentence and it's not fair that they should have to suffer there are people inside of there who have been brought back to have their sentences re-evaluated and possibly overturned and changed and it's not fair that they have to suffer either


Safety Forresidents
Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 10, 2020 at 7:32 am
Safety Forresidents, Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 10, 2020 at 7:32 am
41 people like this

These are criminals who are there for a reason! There is medical attention given in jail if needed. DO NOT LET CRIMINALS OUT INTO OUR TRI-VALLEY NEIGHBORHOODS TO COMMIT MORE CRIMES! Call the Mayor and the Jail if you agree and want to keep your family safe. Make your voice heard too!


Grumpy
Vineyard Avenue
on Apr 10, 2020 at 2:11 pm
Grumpy, Vineyard Avenue
on Apr 10, 2020 at 2:11 pm
10 people like this

Aw come on. The truth is between the two.

The jail can’t handle a full outbreak. So, some thinking should be done about relocating low flight risk convicts to more spaced out quarters (tents in the yard) or something reasonable. Maybe early release for people near the end of a sentence. Maybe some accelerated parole. And for the accused, make better bail decisions.

I think the courts and the jail are doing some of that already.

But let every criminal go? No. Jail shouldn’t be a death sentence, but it shouldn’t be nothing either. And with the realignment, our jails hold some felons now that would have been in the state prisons.


Pleasanton Parent
Pleasanton Meadows
on Apr 10, 2020 at 6:13 pm
Pleasanton Parent, Pleasanton Meadows
on Apr 10, 2020 at 6:13 pm
34 people like this

Let those advocates house and feed them for the remainder of their sentences.


Mom needs son home
Laguna Oaks
on Apr 10, 2020 at 10:41 pm
Mom needs son home, Laguna Oaks
on Apr 10, 2020 at 10:41 pm
4 people like this

No inmate needs to suffer a death trap all I know if something happens to my son I will have a huge lawsuit against alco. Due to negligence because some of this young men just because there in the yellows they call them high risk when they haven’t even been charged with anything let this men go to family’s that will take them on ankle monitor let them have a chance to get away from this death trap and if they don’t behave on ankle make sure they sign contract stating that if they don’t fallow the rules to the realize they will get the max time when they are brought back to custody but please give this men in maximum side a chance to get away from this deadly virus they deserve to live especially when there not guilty till proven guilty please take your time and really think about it Santa Rita is not death row please don’t make it ugly for everyone


Skip wants son in jail
Castlewood
on Apr 11, 2020 at 9:44 am
Skip wants son in jail, Castlewood
on Apr 11, 2020 at 9:44 am
25 people like this

I’m sure Little Johnny is an outstanding citizen what’s he doing in the clink?


Pleasanton Parent
Pleasanton Meadows
on Apr 11, 2020 at 10:04 am
Pleasanton Parent, Pleasanton Meadows
on Apr 11, 2020 at 10:04 am
17 people like this

Death trap ? Really?!

My parents told me growing up, aside from it being the right thing to do, avoiding jail and the justice system all together is important because you not only suffer the direct punishment from your crime and the resulting fallout, but you’re also going to experience the faults of the system, and that too, is part of what you accept when you consider choices in life.

And if we really are in a “life or death” situation, the right thing to do is prioritize the lives of citizens not in that system before addressing those in prison/jail. Harsh, but sorry.

Now I personally don’t believe we’re in the situation you are describing so completely ignoring the prison population isn’t the right thing to do until that becomes a reality. I also don’t agree with just letting people out.


Spudly
Laguna Oaks
on Apr 13, 2020 at 10:05 am
Spudly, Laguna Oaks
on Apr 13, 2020 at 10:05 am
10 people like this

@Mom needs son home. Please tell me how people are in Santa Rita when "they haven't even been charged with anything..."I don't want to get caught in that process.


Antony44
Avila
on Apr 14, 2020 at 10:45 am
Antony44, Avila
on Apr 14, 2020 at 10:45 am
Like this comment

DO NOT ALLOW THESE VALLEES OF OUR NEIGHBORS THREE VALLEES TO MAKE MORE CRIMES! We and our children should not be afraid, with the exception of the virus and freed criminals!


Sky
Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Apr 14, 2020 at 10:48 am
Sky, Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Apr 14, 2020 at 10:48 am
Like this comment

Because of the virus, the population cannot be exposed to even greater danger.


Just saying...
Ruby Hill
on Apr 15, 2020 at 5:47 am
Just saying..., Ruby Hill
on Apr 15, 2020 at 5:47 am
2 people like this

I think unconvicted, currently in the trial process, should also be released no matter what, however utilizing an ankle monitoring sysyem.

I do not think its appropriate to keep them there at this time, period! Regardless of charges!

Or has the right of innocentj52Qd until proven guilty completely alluded our justice system and our elected officials?


Wombat
Downtown
on Apr 15, 2020 at 8:06 am
Wombat, Downtown
on Apr 15, 2020 at 8:06 am
4 people like this

@Just Sayin

I disagree. People arrested for serious felonies (e.g., murder, attempted murder, rape, kidnapping, armed robbery, etc.) should not be released from jail with only an ankle monitoring system. “Innocent until proven guilty” has never meant that all those arrested for serious felonies are not put in jail to ensure the safety of society.

The only allowance I would possibly make is for those who are arrested for lesser crimes and who have the greatest health risk due to coronavirus (I.e., those who are over the age of 60 and/or have pre-existing health conditions).


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