While the Tri-Valley has kept many of these incidents under wraps, troubling abuses have been occuring nearby at the Santa Rita Jail. Since 2014, over 40 individuals have died while in custody; many of these deaths have stemmed from negligence.
Particularly concerning incidents include the following:
- A mentally ill man who committed suicide after being chained to a door for several hours
- A pregnant woman who was forced to give birth in an isolation cell
- A woman who died shortly after being released from jail at 1:30 AM
Recently, there have been reform efforts, with the Alameda County Board of Supervisors adding funding for an additional 265 deputies. This action follows a 2019 grand jury report that found a “reliance throughout the jail on overtime to cover absences due to leaves, staff on loan and vacant positions.”
Increased funding, however, is not sufficient for reforming issues at the Santa Rita jail. A use-of-funds audit was authorized by the California Legislature earlier this year, but additional transparency into the jail and its practices is essential: in 2019, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights reported that the Santa Rita Jail has the highest death rate in the Bay Area.
We encourage Californians to closely follow the state audit, which is expected to release its findings in August. It will serve as a starting point to eliminating prison deaths, hopefully offering insight into which policies most need change.