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Related Categories: East Bay | Police State & Prisons
Amid Surprise Jail Closure Announcement, Calls for Alameda Sheriff Accountability Grow
by Danny Thongsy
Friday May 3rd, 2019 11:05 AM
Oakland community members demand a financial and performance audit of the Sheriff’s office as budget shortfalls, civil lawsuits, and reports of substandard jail conditions continue to mount.
Oakland CA- The Justice Reinvestment Coalition of Alameda County (JRC) along with various community members are calling for greater accountability from Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern. On the evening of April 26. 2019, Sheriff Greg Ahern announced the closing of its Oakland jail facility. Sheriff Ahern’s plan to close Glenn E. Dyer jail without input from the community or notifying the Alameda County Board of Supervisors is only the latest example of the sheriff’s department’s lack of accountability and transparency.

Alameda County Sheriff’s Office scandals and accusations of misconduct continue to mount, including a class action lawsuit for widespread sleep deprivation of people incarcerated in Alameda jails, 34 in-custody deaths over the last 5 years, the illegal recording of juveniles and their attorneys, and 29 civil suits by women alleging abuse and mistreatment. This includes a pregnant mother who was forced to give birth alone in a dirty cell while guards ignored her screams. In addition, although the jail population has decreased by 45% its budget has increased by 48%, a whopping $443 million dollars. While the community has called for a full and transparent budget and performance audit, this request has continued to be ignored.

The Justice Reinvestment Coalition of Alameda County is composed of 17 community-based and advocacy organizations-ACLU-Northern California-Paul Robeson, All of Us or None/ Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, Asian Prisoners Support Committee, Bay Area Black Workers Center, Causa Justa; Just Cause, Centro Legal de la Raza, Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice (CURYJ), East Bay Community Law Center, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Faith in Action, Initiate Justice, Just Cities, Just Now, National Justice for Criminal Justice Reform, Oakland Rising, Urban Peace Movement, and Urban Strategies Council committed to creating a fair and just public safety system based on effective practices that invest in our communities, our families, and our people. A fair and sustainable system minimizes criminalization and acknowledges that detention and incarceration impoverish our communities and harm public safety.

“This is a sheriff that believes he doesn’t have to answer to anyone. We need to figure out what he is doing with our taxpayer dollars. Any cost saving from the jail closure should be reinvested back into our community. The time for an independent financial and performance audit of the sheriff’s office is now” said Katie Dixon, Policy Fellow for LSPC. Community members anticipate that a full performance and financial audit will expose further abuse, corruption and mistreatment across the county jail system. If approved, the audit would also conduct a feasibility study of closing housing units at Santa Rita Jail. An assessment of jail unit facilities that could close stemming from population reductions as a result from criminal justice reforms, such as Proposition 47 and Bail Reform, and an evaluation of the feasibility of such closures.

“This era of unaccountability has gone on for far too long. As The Alameda County Board of Supervisors begin the county budget process, supervisors need to prioritize authorizing an audit of the Sheriff’s Office for more transparency and greater accountability to the Alameda County community,” said Jose Bernal, organizer for the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.

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