In 2017, the Ella Baker Center started the Audit Ahern campaign to demand that the Alameda County Board of Supervisors use their budgetary power to hold the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) accountable. Despite countless calls from the community, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors (with the exception of  Supervisor Wilma Chan, D-3) refused to support an independent financial and performance audit of the ASCO transparency and accountability. 

But in 2020, then-Assembly Member Sydney Kamlager-Dove did what the Supervisors wouldn’t and requested an audit of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office’s use of realignment funds via AB 109. Thanks to Senator Kamlager’s action, we now have some evidence for what we have been attesting for years — the ACSO is wasting taxpayer money. 

While realignment funds represent just a tiny portion of the ACSO’s massive overall jail budget, the audit shows that even these funds are mismanaged, not transparent and unaccountable. Realignment funds were always intended to fund vital reentry and support services for those who are justice-involved. Now more than ever – if the county is serious about public safety – these funds must go to the services they were intended for: mental health, housing and job development.

What the Audit Shows:

  • Of the $333 million in realignment funds that Alameda County received last year, only 16% of this money had any type of oversight. Where did the remaining $279 million go?
  • While other counties have exceeded their jail capacity at the start of realignment, Alameda County has not. In fact, the jail population decreased significantly since realignment, yet the ACSO were still unable to utilize the funds efficiently. 
  • Though the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office continues to say that realignment and early releases led to increased crime, the audit finds this is a lie
    • “In fact, from 2011 to 2014, property and violent crimes in California generally declined. After 2015 the State’s violent crimes have generally increased each year, while property crimes continue to decrease… Further, a 2015 research report from the Public Policy Institute of California that analyzed the statewide impact of realignment and crime rates found no evidence that realignment increased violent crime.”
  • The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office cannot adequately care for people with mental health issues. 
    • Our audit found that the mental health providers in Fresno and Alameda do not sufficiently share [people’s] mental health information with the county jails. Each of the three counties we reviewed asserted that the number of [people] with mental illnesses has increased significantly since realignment. Although variances in the counties’ jail data systems rendered the data regarding [people] with mental illnesses incomparable across the counties, the jail data from Alameda and Fresno did not demonstrate substantial increases, as jail staff had asserted.

This audit shows why we need more ways to hold Sheriffs – and all law enforcement – accountable to the community. 

The Audit Ahern campaign exposed the dangerous and harmful results of investing in the ACSO and depending on law enforcement to protect our communities. Through the work of the Audit Ahern campaign, we have identified funding the ACSO mismanages that should go to programs like Mental Health First Oakland, a new model that provides mobile support and life-affirming interventions to mental health crises.

We must stop investing in systems that kill us, and put those funds towards those that heal and save us.

For more information please contact our Organizing Director Jose Bernal: [email protected]