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Santa Rita Sheriff’s Office Says Prisoners Not Being Maltreated; Prisoners’ Protest Says Otherwise

by Kevin Bliss

Detainees and prisoners at the Santa Rita Jail (SRJ) in Dublin, California, participated in a peaceful protest over the unsanitary and unconstitutional conditions in the jail. Beginning October 30, 2019, between 300 and 400 prisoners engaged in a six-day hunger strike and work stoppage. They supplied a list of 26 demands to be met to end their protest.

Prisoners at SRJ said the facility’s living quarters are unhealthy and cleaning supplies are only issued once a week. They said medical and mental health care needs are being neglected. Moreover, the facility does not have a law library for federal detainees, preventing them from preparing for their defense.

A spokesperson for the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, Sgt. Ray Kelly, said the jail spends $75,000 per prisoner each year to provide adequate food, clothing, and medical care. They have access to their families, legal advice, and religious leaders. “[Prisoners] are not being maltreated,” he said. “The conditions are better than some of the conditions that they have in our community. Let’s talk about the inhumanity of people living on the streets in our communities. There would be no way our facility would be allowed to function or run if the conditions were as described.”

Attorney Yolanda Huang said SRJ is one of the worst jails in the Bay Area. “They are extremely disorganized and the facility is dirty despite the fact that they received $430 million a year,” she stated.

SRJ has multiple lawsuits pending against it for wrongful deaths, abuse, assaults, and other constitutional violations. Nine people have reportedly died at SRJ within the past year with others not counted because their deaths occurred after they were transported to the local hospital. The already short-handed staff is also responsible for Alameda County emergency response. Many had been redirected to battle the massive Kincade fire, which ravaged Sonoma County for two weeks beginning October 23, which caused facility lockdowns, canceled visits, and no access to telephones or medical care.

A prisoners’ statement said homeless detainees were not being showered and sanitized before being moved to their housing units. Drug addicts were not receiving treatment, causing them to go through withdrawals, and defecating and vomiting all over. Conditions of this nature spread lice and infectious diseases such as hepatitis and MRSA.

Strike demands included: adherence to Title 15 requirements, quality food, twice weekly clothing exchange and access to cleaning supplies, personal disinfectants, adequate recreation, a proper law library, a stop to contracted prison services price gouging, and proper visitations without last-minute cancellations.

Brooke Terpstra, of the Oakland Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, said, “Most of these demands are essentially just demands that the jail follow its own policy and stated objectives.” 



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