Originally published on 07/27/2020
I write to you in rage from occupied Ohlone land in what’s called Alameda County in California, where Covid-19 has spiked in yet another “correctional” facility.
On Wednesday July 15, 40 kitchen and laundry workers at the county’s Santa Rita Jail were confirmed positive for Covid-19.
That Thursday night, I was at Rita for a weekly jail support shift with homies–where cigarettes, hot coffee, and ride support is offered to those getting out. Not one of the recently released folks we spoke to were aware that 40 people preparing the entire jail’s food had a deadly virus.
Friday the 17th, confirmed positive cases more than doubled to 101, and were reported in another unit of the jail.
This represented a 1500% increase in Covid-19 infections at Rita over the course of two days.
This outbreak is a direct result of the Alameda County Sheriff Office (ACSO)’s malicious neglect. Sheriff Ahern and ACSO are notorious for “abysmal treatment of those incarcerated in their care.” 47 people have died under their custody since 2014. Since the pandemic, prisoners testify that guards at Santa Rita Jail do not wear masks or change gloves when moving throughout the jail; that they transfer imprisoned people between units often with no regard to infection status; provide imprisoned people no PPE or cleaning supplies; and make no provisions for social distancing.
Somehow, despite the failure to provide basic public health resources in its jail, Alameda County had the funds to quietly increase the Sheriff’s budget by over $300 million in May. This, after last year’s October-November hunger strikes and work stoppages at Rita in protest of widespread institutional neglect and abuse, including unsanitary living conditions and poor medical care.
Meanwhile, like Governor Newsom and CDCR’s calculated negligence at San Quentin, the Alameda Sheriff has ignored warning calls predicting immense and avoidable suffering.
On March 17, prisoners delivered a collectively written grievance to the Sheriff, making demands including improved sanitation, safe and sanitary food, an accountable grievance process, and an end to slave labor.
In May, organizers created a Covid-19 hotline for folks inside Santa Rita. One caller shared: “no one is paying attention to inmates unless they seem like they are dying.” Earlier this week, a pod worker in HU7E who serves food, whose full statement can be found here, asked:
“Do seven people have to die before you decide to do something about it? Do people have to loot stores before you decide to do your job?”
The release of all pre-trial and medically vulnerable prisoners was necessary months ago and is now more urgent than ever.
Alameda county officials must meet the full demands asserted at the press conference held Monday, which are informed by incarcerated folks via loved ones, NLG Bay Area attorneys, and the Santa Rita Jail hotline.
You can find some of their phone numbers in the call script and others in this action alert. May we stand together and demand freedom.
When We Fight, We Win!
Indigo Madrone Cochrane
Staff Member Prison Radio