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 am currently an inmate in Santa Rita Jail, the County Jail for Alameda County. Social distancing is not enforced in the jail. I still have mealtime and pod time with almost ten other people. When deputies took inmates out to take outdoor showers on Saturday April 18, 2020, I was put in the multipurpose room (which I estimate to measure about 20×20 ft) with about 25 other inmates. We received masks while we were in this room but we immediately had to return the masks when we left the room to take our showers. After the showers, inmates were put in the outside yard and were permitted to all play basketball together, not following social distancing guidelines. I witnessed all of E and F pod (about 60 people) in the yard together at one point (I estimate the yard to measure about 40×22 ft).
In terms of supplies and personal protective equipment, I received my first mask in March and my second mask about three weeks later, but these are the disposable masks that rip easily, and I can feel lots of air seeping into them from the sides. The jail hasn’t handed out hand wipes, masks, or soap to my tier in two weeks. On April 19, 2020, deputies handed out soap to the upper tier of my pod, but the lower tier (my tier) did not receive any. Because I submitted a grievance regarding not receiving any soap, a sergeant did recently come by to give me the grievance response and give me a personal bar of soap–but he didn’t give soap to anyone else. We have never received gloves. Even when a deputy provided a bar of soap to me about two weeks ago, I was instructed to share that bar of soap with my cellmate. The cleaning supplies we receive during pod time consist of a watered-down disinfectant spray bottle and a toilet brush. I haven’t received a mop nor have I received rags. There is no toilet bowl cleaner, and the toilet brush sometimes even sits out on the table next to the food we are about to be served. There are some days where we don’t even receive these cleaning supplies. There was one deputy who would come around and spray the toilets and sinks with bleach, but this deputy hasn’t been around in a while. He would just spray these items and the inmates have to wipe them with their own towels or cloth.
Neither the showers nor the day room appeared to have been cleaned–in fact, the showers hadn’t been cleaned in over a week and smelled like urine. There was still blood and various other stains on the day room carpet. I fear that Santa Rita Jail will tell the media that they are following all protocol by hiring this cleaning service, but I believe I could have cleaned the pod much better myself (and I wish I had the chance to do so).
I am in D pod of Housing Unit 6. We are not quarantined, but C pod next to us is yellow-tagged quarantined. I am concerned because deputies continue to take off their masks often (there was a deputy who wasn’t wearing his mask all of April 19, 2020), and the same deputies that work in D pod also work in C pod (which has likely been exposed to the virus). Deputies have the ability to walk around when walking from C pod to D pod, but instead they use the door that directly connects C and D pods. I am also concerned that C pod still has pod time together, when I think inmates in C pod should be isolating themselves.
On April 18, 2020, we went to the outdoor showers so that people from outside the jail could come and clean our pod. But when we returned to our pod, I noticed that the cells smelled faintly of chlorine, and upon inspection, I noticed that the cleaners had only sprayed down my bunk, the floors and the toilet seat. I could tell they only sprayed these items (and didn’t wipe them down) because they had visible run marks from the sanitizing liquid on them. The tables still had the same dust on them, and when I rubbed my finger on the window to see if it was cleaned, lots of dirt and dust came off. Neither the showers nor the day room appeared to have been cleaned–in fact, the showers hadn’t been cleaned in over a week and smelled like urine. There was still blood and various other stains on the day room carpet. I fear that Santa Rita Jail will tell the media that they are following all protocol by hiring this cleaning service, but I believe I could have cleaned the pod much better myself (and I wish I had the chance to do so).