Santa Rita Jail Solidarity

Testimonies directly from people incarcerated at Santa Rita and informational resources on actions and decarceration

WELCOME TO THE SANTA RITA JAIL SOLIDARITY WEBSITE. This is primarily a resource for testimonies directly from people currently or formerly incarcerated at Santa Rita Jail, or from their family members and loved ones. While many of the current testimonies focus on issues inside jail during the COVID-19 crisis, moving forward this site will offer testimonies on a wide range of themes — from labor conditions, physical and mental healthcare, access to visitation and phone calls, hygiene and sanitation, use of lock-downs, and other topics that have been persistent issues for people inside. These testimonies have been gathered by lawyers, community advocates, and organizers, and are as unaltered as possible. Names and PFNs are only included if we have received clear and informed permission from the person giving the testimony to make that information public; otherwise, we have changed the names and removed other identifying information.

We know that the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office has always gone to great lengths to cover up the truth about conditions inside the jail — from constant lies to the press regarding in-custody deaths, medical care, abuse by deputies, hygiene, sanitation, and so much more, to labeling testimonies from prisoners presented by attorneys in public hearings as false “misinformation.” We understand that ACSO uses its control over the narrative and its lack of transparency as powerful tools, in an attempt to increase funding, power, and control. This website is our attempt to push back against the Sheriff’s ability to use these tools through sharing this firsthand information.

Throughout our communications with many people incarcerated in the jail, when we have asked what people outside can do to support them, one near-universal request that has emerged has been to keep the public informed about the reality of conditions inside – a reality which is often outrageously misrepresented by the Sheriff and jail spokespeople. Our primary goal is to support the needs and the well-being of prisoners, and the creation of this website is part of our effort to meet this request. We aim to inform you so that together, we can build a robust network of support for people experiencing neglect, abuse and exploitation by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department.

Testimonies

two prisoner letters detail racially biased and unjust legal process during pandemic

People of color and those that come from low poverty is being denied the Humphrey law. It will show, that’s why the inmate population is growing fast at Santa Rita Jail....it seems like nobody is being released. It’s 85% of African Americans that’s housed at Santa Rita Jail in Alameda County – the new form of modern day slavery.

paralegal confirms sample from jail food as mouse feces; reviews prisoner food logs to confirm that caloric intake in jail is far lower than medically necessary

Between August 16 and August 29, 2020, Marcus tracked how many trays he received that were dirty (remnants of leftover food bits from previous meals still stuck to trays). After reviewing this information, I found that out of 28 meals that came on trays during this time period (14 breakfasts and dinners), 10 meals came on dirty trays (around 36 percent).

paralegal details multitude of ways the jail kitchen does not meet health and safety food service standards

If what the women inmate kitchen workers state is true, that trays which fall on the ground are simply picked up and placed back on tables for filing, or that upon finding rodent feces or cockroaches, the Aramark workers will merely pick off the feces or bugs and then serve the food, this is unacceptable and unsanitary practices, and must be curtailed immediately.

pod worker describes completely inedible food of all kinds; rodent and cockroach infestation in kitchen and housing units; grievances marked resolved without fixing the problem

When we filed grievances, the response is “resolved” because they have put sticky traps under the oven and vending machines. But, it doesn’t fix the reason the mice are here. The jail has not repaired the holes in the walls where the mice live.

kitchen worker reports burnt and inedible food, rodents in kitchen, aramark workers do nothing when issues are brought to their attention

Last week, for some reason, I got a stomach illness. I was throwing up, I was constipated, my stomach burned, and I could not eat for two days. I think it was related to something I ate. It’s hard to know if my stomach illness came from eating burnt food, or if it came from eating food that was contaminated.

prisoner on special diet misses 22 meals in one month because trays don’t match dietary needs, portions are inadequate even in correct trays, loses 25 lbs. in 4 months

In June, I missed 22 meals. In July, I missed 14 meals. Despite me submitting that grievance regarding missed meals back in mid-March 2020, the jail still often does not provide me with my meals, and does not provide me with replacement gluten free meals when my meal is missing.

prisoner finds rodent feces in food, grievance is marked resolved after he is offered a new tray; is then afraid to eat jail food and loses 10 lbs.

After the incident, I was afraid to eat the food, particularly since the guards and the sergeant didn’t seem to care. It is not just about getting a new lunch, because any meal, or every meal could have feces in it. It just happened that I caught it that one time, so getting a new lunch does not change the fact that the kitchen has mice.

prisoner logs food portion and quality; finds food consistently spoiled, falls short of both portion size and items on menu, disgusting and inedible, food trays filthy, loses 70 lbs. in 8 months as a result

Around January or February of 2020, when Aramark started changing the menu, reducing the food portions more, and leaving out more of the meal elements, and I started losing weight. I have lost almost 70 pounds between January and August 2020 (eight months). In August 2020, I weighed 180 pounds, which I haven’t weighed since I was 16 years old.

rats, birds, cockroaches all over kitchen and in food; concerns over eating a cockroach in the rice dismissed by aramark workers

I was stirring my rice when I saw a cockroach in the rice. Its body was partially translucent and I could see its skeleton, it had cooked into the rice, but I could see the legs and the wings. Finding the cockroach in my rice made me feel sick. I threw up from eating that cockroach.

prisoner grievances of feces in food denied; food consistently inedible; “unsafe food… forces most folks to go buy commissary, leading to huge profit margins for the jail”

Especially now that we are getting our food on disposable trays, I see many unopened or barely touched trays going straight into the trash can. This speaks to the food’s safety issues and terrible quality because we are so hungry all the time – we wouldn’t just throw anything out without it being truly disgusting or threatening to our health.

prisoner describes food contamination, overcooking to the point of being inedible, other examples of poor food quality

When the trays aren’t cleaned properly, the food remnants that stick to the trays just keep getting cooked into the plastic of the trays more and more. When there are food remnants on the bottom or sides of the trays, this means my food is contaminated, which feels unsanitary and not safe to eat.

kitchen worker describes consistently expired, spoiled, and contaminated food; aramark workers purposefully failing to address these issues

I have seen our Aramark supervisor, Margarita, pull unused trays out of the garbage to be used on the line again. This concerns me because I try to keep things as clean and sanitary as possible. Margarita sometimes sees rat poop sitting on top of the trays. I have seen her dust off rat poop with her bare hands. I have also seen Margarita pull bugs out of the food, with her hands.

kitchen worker describes food consistently spoiled by lack of refrigeration, food cooked with maggots in it, rats in freezer

The food at Santa Rita Jail is frequently spoiled and inedible. On the week of October 5, 2020, when I was still in HU 22, beans were served with maggots in them. The maggots were cooked with the beans. When we told the deputy, his response is “this is all you get”, “eat it or throw it away”.

kitchen worker describes feces, rats, cockroaches, birds in kitchen; aramark refuses to adequately address poor food quality and unsanitary conditions

I have found rat poop on top of the meal trays that are going out to the housing units. When I brought this issue up with Margarita, she picked off the rat poop with her bare hands and threw it away.... I reported this to a kitchen deputy and asked for the trays to be remade. We have to fight to get Aramark to throw away food that is not fit to serve. Rather than make all new trays, they try to...

prisoner being retaliated against for filing grievances; calls for third-party surprise visits to jail

Sheriff Ahern and his deputies have a blatant disregard for taxpayers money. From sexual harassment to deputies giving each other massages on the taxpayers dime, and lots more in between, including being locked outside in the yard, and past dinner, and then having to beg for food. It's time for this jail to have a more serious audit than the current one. There needs to be an unbiased third-party...

jail lying about amount of testing and not testing correctly leading to inaccurate results; only in compliance during inspections; retaliating against whistle-blowers

The most important thing is for them to know is that the jail is lying to people about how much they are testing. They are not offering the test to everyone. Since March 2020 they have not offered the test to every inmate, so not every inmate has been tested. They are not getting accurate results. They are not doing the procedures the right way.

prisoner describes consistent lack of masks, and is denied release despite high health risk and no violent past convictions

The inmate grievance response is “....Santa Rita can’t just let you out, you must be released through the courts.” So I asked my Public Defender regarding said issue, and she said the courts are not going to give me a 5-month-early release but she did state: Santa Rita Jail could give me an early release without a court order.

Learn how you can take action to demand more releases from Santa Rita to protect the health and safety of our community

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