Advocates call for jails to do better to stop COVID spread among inmates

While COVID cases are spiking throughout the Bay Area, they are also on the rise inside some county jails. Santa Clara and Contra Costa counties are dealing with active outbreaks.

Some families and advocates feel there's not enough being done to keep inmates safe.

Inside Santa Clara County jails, COVID cases are skyrocketing.

In recent days, 32 correctional officers and 34 inmates have tested positive.

This comes after the Mercury News reports several officers allegedly had an off-duty party.

Advocates with Silicon Valley Debug, are frustrated.

"It was disheartening to know that, you know they're risking people's lives. I know some people feel like, 'Oh, they're incarcerated who cares?', but you know those are someone's loved ones," said Rosie Chavez, an organizer with Debug.

The Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office released a statement saying they're looking into the matter and that the behaviors in question are not representative of the agency as a whole.

They may, however, be representative of a bigger problem say advocates.

Santa Cruz County investigated a similar situation earlier this month: a correctional officer's party, followed by an outbreak.

"I feel that yeah they're not doing the best job and they took a job that they know what their responsibilities are and they need to uphold that to the fullest," Chavez said.

And while many jails test and quarantine inmates on arrival, they do so with varying degrees of success. Contra Costa County facilities in Richmond and Martinez are dealing with an outbreak of at least 45 positive cases.

Inmate, Sterling Bland was diagnosed this week. He asked his wife Rayanne to speak out on his behalf.

"Basically they just put somebody in the same cell as somebody who didn't have COVID and that's how it started spreading. And he called me and was like look you have to get this out there that they're just throwing people in," said Rayanne.

There is no governing body tasked with enforcement. While counties may have extensive safety protocols, inmates say they aren't always followed.

Advocates are calling for these jails to do better.

"It's basically like their narrative against whoever is inside behind those walls," said Chavez.

Jail populations have dropped dramatically to slow the spread of COVID.

However, some inmates also cite concerns outside the jail, during transport to court and in the holding tanks there.