Alameda County Supervisors Fail to Act as Advocates Call for a People’s Audit of the Sheriff’s Office

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Alameda County Supervisors Fail to Act as Advocates  Call for a People’s Audit of the Sheriff’s Office

Community Members Urge Transparency and Accountability

OAKLAND, CA -- After two years of protesting inhumane conditions and in-custody deaths under the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO), civil rights advocates joined family members who have lost loved ones inside Santa Rita Jail at the November 14th Public Protection Committee meeting to demand the Board of Supervisors support a full, independent People’s Audit of the sheriff’s office.
Advocates and family members filled the Board chambers and delivered over an hour of powerful testimony on the need for accountability and transparency. Despite the emotional and passionate words from community members, Supervisors Richard Valle (D-2) and Scott Haggerty (D-1) disregarded calls to move forward with an audit.
After publicly supporting the need for an audit at a meeting in October, Supervisor Valle backtracked, using an ongoing lawsuit against Alameda County as the latest excuse to delay.
“Anything and everything that we say and do here can be used against the County. We as supervisors have been told by County Counsel that we have to be extremely careful because we’re on record,” said Valle before stating he needed more time to consider the scope of work that advocates are demanding be included in the audit.
“Board President Richard Valle failed to vote with our communities out of fear of litigation against the county. What he and County Counsel fail to recognize is that concealing what is happening inside Santa Rita Jail does nothing to help those inside its walls, ironically leaving the county liable to more lawsuits and more hunger strikes,” said Amber Akemi Piatt, Health Instead of Punishment Program Director with Human Impact Partners. “This utter disregard for the health, safety, and lives of Alameda County neighbors and loved ones is disturbing.”
“It is the responsibility of the Board of Supervisors to protect the rights of Alameda County residents. The fact that they fail to do so makes them complicit in the human rights abuses that continue inside Santa Rita Jail,” said Jose Bernal, Senior Organizer and Advocate with the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.
Under Sheriff Greg Ahern, the sheriff’s office boasts a budget of $443 million that has steadily increased over the last decade while the jail population has declined. Amid mounting lawsuits for civil rights violations, defying state sanctuary law and inhumane jail conditions, there have been at least 43 in-custody deaths inside Santa Rita Jail in the past five years. Reports show the jail has a higher death rate than Los Angeles, the nation’s largest jail system. 
Family members of Raymond Reyes, who died inside Santa Rita Jail on July 24, 2019, spoke during public comment:
“To this day, we have no answers about what happened to my brother. We have no autopsy report, no information,” said Reanna Reyes, Raymond’s sister while standing alongside his widow and mother. “If you can imagine putting yourself in our shoes — losing a brother, a son, a husband. It’s unacceptable; we’re human, we deserve answers. These officers should have been there to protect him from himself and other people.”
“The public deserves to know how Sheriff Ahern is using public funds to fuel inhumane law enforcement that flouts the law and basic decency. We can no longer allow the sheriff to operate unchecked,” said Kitzia Esteva-Martinez, Community Rights Co-Director with Causa Justa::Just Cause.
Family members and community advocates are demanding that the Board of Supervisors support a full and transparent People’s Audit of the ACSO, which will:
  • Disclose how the Sheriff's Office is spending taxpayer dollars;

  • Study trends and data about who is being locked up and why;

  • Evaluate jail conditions and the treatment of incarcerated people; and

  • Flag resources that can be redirected away from jails and toward mental health facilities.