January 11, 2021


Terence Long, Ella Baker Center; [email protected] (510) 936-0344

Ashley Chambers, Ella Baker Center; [email protected]g (510) 285-8227


Increased crowding at Santa Rita Jail coupled with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) willful negligence is putting the lives of our incarcerated community members at risk while also endangering the health of the county at-large.

Alameda County, CA–Today, legal advocates, healthcare professionals, and community organizers held a press conference urging an immediate action plan to address the COVID-19 surge inside Santa Rita Jail. Watch it here. Since December 23, active COVID-19 cases in Santa Rita Jail have skyrocketed, showing a total of 76 cases this past weekend. As if these numbers weren’t startling enough, people inside Santa Rita Jail are facing cruel and unusual punishment and their constitutional rights are being violated.

In light of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) failure to protect incarcerated community members, Decarcerate Alameda County (DAC) is raising awareness about the crisis, and underscores the need to release people as well as maintain healthy sanitation and testing protocols inside the jail.

“As the outbreak continues, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office and Wellpath have slowed down their testing,” said Lina Garcia-Schmidt of the National Lawyers Guild – SF Bay Area Chapter. “Since our free Santa Rita Jail hotline launched over the summer of 2020, we have received consistent reports of sheriff’s deputies not wearing masks consistently or properly. We need more substantive change.” 

Explaining the dangers of the outbreak, Sheila Dunlap, whose sister is currently incarcerated in Santa Rita Jail, stated, “My sister is asthmatic and more susceptible to COVID. After she quarantined for 10 days in the jail, they put a new person off the streets in her cell without any testing for safety measures. She’s received food that is cold, stale, expired—animals are treated better than my sister.”

New research from the Prison Policy Initiative exposes the extent to which incarceration and detention have driven COVID-19 cases not only within carceral facilities but also in communities throughout the country. In Alameda County, for example, the report estimates that over 2,500 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the county between May 1-August 1, 2020 alone are attributable to mass incarceration and detention. 

“The jail is not interested in the actual benefit or impact of the jail on the people in custody. What we have is a very expensive system that doesn’t have much long term benefit for anyone involved except the Sheriff and the deputies, who collect very decent paychecks,” said Yolanda Huang, civil rights attorney.

Amber Akemi Piatt, a public health advocate with Human Impact Partners, remarked: “This pandemic is devastating. There is an opportunity and imperative to reevaluate how we handle social, political, and economic issues in Alameda County and beyond. County officials can choose to invest in health-affirming resources—like housing, healthcare, and food—instead of harmful systems like incarceration.”

Decarcerate Alameda County will continue to hold elected officials accountable for their unjust and unlawful treatment of our community members incarcerated in Santa Rita Jail.


Decarcerate Alameda County: Formerly known as the Audit Ahern Coalition, Decarcerate Alameda County is a growing coalition of organizations and community members joining together to demand that Alameda County free people from Santa Rita Jail, divest from incarceration & policing, and invest in community health, not cops. Learn more at