Feb 13, 2020

Contact: Terence Long, terence@ellabakercenter.org, 510-936-0344


Outrage Grows Over Appalling Conditions, In-Custody Deaths, and Systematic Dysfunction Inside Santa Rita Jail

OAKLAND, CA - On Thursday, February 13th, dozens of community groups and residents spoke out against the re-accreditation of Alameda County’s notorious Santa Rita jail from the American Corrections Association (ACA). Community members renewed their demands for a   full and transparent independent financial and performance audit of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, a demand that the #AuditAhern coalition has been making for over two years. The coalition formed in response to egregious cases of prisoner abuse, mistreatment and at least 46 in-custody deaths that have taken place since 2014.

The American Corrections Association is a controversial company that has been the subject of much criticism for its accreditation process. Community members pointed out ACA’s troubled and controversial history, and rebuked the organization’s praise for Santa Rita Jail.

“Just last year alone, at least 10 people died while in custody at Santa Rita Jail, yet Sheriff Greg Ahern wants us to think everything is okay inside the jail. ACA’s accreditation is the equivalent to a Trump University diploma -- it’s worthless!” said Nifa Akousa, Organizer and Advocate with the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.

Critics have voiced concerns of ACA’s past accreditations of facilities that were so decrepit and inhumane, the courts intervened to mandate reforms or issue complete facility shutdowns -- including the infamous Kentucky Otter Creek Correctional Center, Idaho State Correctional Center and the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility in Mississippi, who in spite of receiving praise from ACA was shut down by the courts. According to a district court judge, the Walnut Grove jail provided a “picture of such horror as should be unrealized anywhere in the civilized world.”

“This ACA re-accreditation is a sham and a slap in the face to every family member who has been harmed by abuse and neglect experienced inside Santa Rita Jail,” said Yadira Sanchez with the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance. “If everything is perfect inside the jail as sheriff officials claim, then it’s time they prove it and allow for our People’s Audit. The Board of Supervisors have the power to vote this into action. Why do they continue to shield the jail from any kind of transparency?”

The ACA has been called a “virtual degree mill for unscrupulous government agencies looking for a way to convince the public that everything is fine.” The ACA is also known for accrediting a number of ICE detention centers, more notably The El Paso Detention Center where detainees report subhuman conditions, overcrowding and being forced to drink water out of toilets.

The #AuditAhern coalition continues to demand the Board of Supervisors vote to conduct an independent financial and performance audit of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.


The Audit Ahern coalition was formed in 2017 and has been demanding a transparent fiscal and performance audit of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office. It is currently comprised of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance, Urban Peace Movement, Causa Justa Just Cause, Public Health Justice Collective, Human Impact Partners, American Friends Services Committee, SURJ - Bay Area, Justice Reinvestment Coalition, Unitarian Church of Oakland, and the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club.