Report on Alameda County Jails Reveals Dastardly Conditions


Oakland Community Organization’s Live Free Committee released a four-page report titled “What’s Up With Our Jails?” on Oct. 2, detailing several issues and injustices taking place in Alameda County jails.

Issues related to pregnancy, medical care, food and hygiene services, isolation, and other areas of wellness are presented in the report, along with recommendations for community action.

In early 2018, the county jails held on average 2,362 men and 236 women daily. The average daily jail population is more than 50 percent African-American, 20 percent Latino, and less than 20 percent white, according to the report.

“The 2,600 people held in Alameda County jails daily are our brothers and sisters, fathers, mothers, and neighbors. The jails are ours, as taxpayers and voters, and should reflect our values,” the report reads. OCO’s Live Free Committee delivered the report with the goal of guaranteeing humane jail conditions and re-entry support to improve chances for success post-incarceration.

“How many more must suffer before we reform policies and performance of the Alameda County jails and Sheriff’s Office? The time is now for us to take necessary steps toward justice,” said Richard Speiglman, a volunteer leader of OCO and member of Kehilla Community Synagogue.

The report comes in the same year as what has been deemed possibly the largest prison strike of its kind in US history.  Inmates in 17 states were involved in the strike from Aug. 21—Sept. 9, boycotting commissaries, refusing to work, and in some cases, refusing to eat. Non-incarcerated persons held rallies outside of prisons and jails, including a 300-person protest outside of San Quentin State Prison  on August 25.

The report highlighted several instances of human rights violations, including one case in which a woman gave birth in isolation at Santa Rita Jail in  Dublin. Another inmate described the incident: “A very pregnant woman…was in so much pain she could not walk. Instead of taking her to receive medical care, [deputies] placed her in an isolation cell…[she] began to scream. This went on for hours. Finally, we could hear the crying of a baby…[she] had given birth, alone.”

Three detailed recommendations are made: Demand that our jails adopt best practices; Insist on more effective community re-entry programs; Hold our elected officials accountable and institute community oversight.

The report lists best practices that could be adopted immediately, like a supportive model for helping pregnant inmates, and ending the practice of posting release information online, which potentially endangers released inmates.

To improve re-entry services, the report recommends a full needs assessment for each inmate prior to release, and safer release practices over all, in addition to other human services to ensure successful re-entry after release.

The Justice Reinvestment Coalition (a community group that includes OCO) has proposed a Financial Management and Performance Audit to determine how ACSO has used increased resources while its jail population has decreased — and to what effect.  OCO demands that the Board of Supervisors adopt the proposed audit, and that a model for community oversight be instituted.

The report is available here.


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