This testimony was a declaration from the May 7, 2020 filing of a new class action lawsuit over jail conditions related to COVID-19 on behalf of prisoners at Santa Rita Jail against the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.
I was an inmate in Santa Rita Jail, the County Jail for Alameda County. I was released on April 13, 2020. I was booked into Santa Rita on December 9, 2019, and housed in Housing Unit 31, one of the units where one or more inmates tested positive for COVID-19. Housing Unit 31 is a dormitory style unit, where the cells are filled with up to 28 bunk beds. There are three cells on the top tier and three cells on the bottom tier. The bunk beds are at most 3 feet apart, so there is no possibility of maintaining social distancing. When full, each housing unit has close to 200 inmates. When I left, the jail had removed some inmates, but we still had between 15-20 men in each cell. Many of the bunk beds only had one occupant, but a few still had two.
After the corona virus, the jail made public statements that they were now providing inmates with soap and hand sanitizer. During the period of time I was in Santa Rita — a little over four months — I received one bar of soap and twice, and received two small packets of single use hand sanitizer.
The sanitation in Santa Rita Jail is very poor. Prior to the corona virus outbreak, cells were not cleaned. The jail says they are supposed to provide cleaning materials once a week so inmates can clean our bathrooms and cells. In my experience, in February, we were provided cleaning materials twice. And the cleaning supplies consisted of a bucket of brown soapy water, and a dirty mop and broom which all the cells were required to use. The mop was the mop used for the bathroom, and so many of the men did not want to use that mop for the cell. The lack of sanitation, particularly of the bathroom was a major complaint of all the inmates. You had twenty-eight men sharing the bathroom, and the bathroom was only cleaned once a month because the jail refused to provide inmates with appropriate and clean cleaning supplies and tools.
Only after the coronavirus arrived, the jail started to clean the common areas more often. The common areas are used by all six cells, so for hundreds of men. The cleaning involved only spraying the tables, the water fountain, and the telephones with some type of bleach spray, but these items were never wiped clean, with clean paper towels or rags, so the dirt was still on all of these items. And only after the coronavirus arrived did the jail start to make cleaning supplies available more often, approximately once every three days. However, the cleaning supplies remained dirty brown soapy water and the dirty broom and mop.
Before the coronavirus, the jail did not provide soap. Inmates were required to buy soap, so hand washing was rare. After the corona virus, the jail made public statements that they were now providing inmates with soap and hand sanitizer. During the period of time I was in Santa Rita — a little over four months — I received one bar of soap and twice, and received two small packets of single use hand sanitizer.