Rally Calling for Change in Little one Welfare System in Sacramento on Could 11
Alameda County’s Santa Rita jail, run by Sheriff Gregory Ahern, has been the target of multiple lawsuits over jail conditions and has had the most in-custody deaths in Northern California: at least 58 in-custody deaths since 2014, including 19 suicides.
We lift up the names of the two most recent to those in Santa Rita—Marcos Garibay and Larry Roberson. Their families are among many who have been given conflicting and incomplete information about their deaths by the sheriff.
A demonstration is planned for Tuesday May 24 at 11:30 am at the Board of Supervisors on Oak and 12th streets in Oakland to protest a culture of death at the jail and this dysfunctional incarceration system. Join us in our call for accountability.
The US Justice Department recently found our county jail violates constitutional rights and subjects the 40% of persons in custody who need mental health services to “unlawful harm.”
The sheriff has also evaded a county ban on collaboration of local law enforcement with ICE.
The county continues to hemorrhage millions of taxpayer dollars on settlements and legal fees for this mismanagement – the most recent costing upwards of $300 million. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Department needs a major transformative intervention.
Assembly Bill 1185, recently enacted by the California state Legislature, authorizes civilian oversight boards and a full-time Inspector General with subpoena power to investigate sheriff’s departments and jails. Our communities can gain accountability for brutal practices by the sheriff and assist supervisors in exercising their legal and fiscal authority to oversee this county department.
Sopath Mey, speaking for her Cambodian immigrant family, told us of her cousin Soto’s medical crisis and death in Santa Rita in January 2020:
“To this day we don’t understand how he died in custody of the jail and the sheriff. Did he get medical care he needed? … Our family has no resources for an investigation … The sheriff is also the coroner, which raises serious questions. Independent oversight without conflict of interest could tell us what happened so we can have peace of mind.”
A sheriff’s oversight coalition initiated by Faith In Action East Bay and Oakland’s Coalition for Police accountability including dozens of organizations and clergy of diverse faiths – ACLU of Northern California, Alameda County Public Health Commission, SEIU Local 1021, Oakland Education Association, Brotherhood of Elders, National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform, and working closely with the League of Women Voters – researched essential principles for effective independent civilian oversight:
- A community selection panel process that is open and transparent to create a representative oversight board insulated from politics and the sheriff’s influence.
- Legal for a civilian Oversight Board and Inspector General that is fully independent of the County Counsel’s conflicts of interest representing the sheriff in lawsuits counsel against the county.
- A dedicated funding stream to ensure adequate staff of investigators working with an experienced, full-time Inspector General.
- Access to records and testimonies, regular public meetings and reports to the community and the Board of Supervisors (BOS.)
- Elected officials – including the sheriff – must be held accountable. Civilian oversight with subpoena power can conduct independent investigations and recommend necessary change to the Board of Supervisors—who have the ultimate power of budgeting tax dollars.
Working with a full-time inspector general, they will investigate jail deaths, in-custody conditions, conduct of the sheriff’s deputies and can help identify alternatives to the county’s current cruel and costly mass incarceration of individuals with mental health challenges.
We must bring the sheriff’s operations into alignment with constitutional law enforcement, our community’s ethical values and the public trust.
Let Supervisors know you support the community coalition calling for strong oversight of the Sheriff – email the Board at [email protected].
Rev Dr George Cummings, executive director, Faith In Action East Bay
Cathy Leonard for the Coalition for Police Accountability
Regina Jackson, Oakland Police Commission*
Rev Dr James Brenneman, President, Berkeley School of Theology*
Rev. Ken Chambers, West Side MBC & co-chair Interfaith Coalition of Alameda County*
Rev Dr James Hopkins, co-chair, Faith In Action East Bay; Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church*
Rev. Derron Jenkins, associate minister, Allen Temple Baptist Church, Oakland*
Rev. Andrew Loban, Rector, St Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, Livermore*
Br. Aidan McAlaneen, pastor of St. Columba Catholic Church
Rabbi Dev Nolly, senior rabbi, Kehilla Community Synagogue, Oakland*
Rabbi Judith Seid, Tri-Valley Cultural Jews*
Rev. Jeffrey Spencer, senior pastor, Niles Discovery Church, Fremont*