Deputies save life of Santa Rita Jail inmate, sheriff says

Two Alameda County sheriff's deputies saved the life of an inmate trying to commit suicide. May 11, 2020

The Alameda County Sheriff is crediting two deputies for saving the life of a Santa Rita Jail inmate who was trying to kill himself, the office reported on Monday.

About noon, Deputies Rahey and Dalton (their first names were not provided) found the inmate located face up on the floor of his cell with something tied around his neck, the sheriff said in a Facebook post.

Rahey retrieved safety scissors as Dalton called for medical assistance, the sheriff said.

After they entered the cell, the sheriff said Rahey cut the inmate's jail-issued shirt from his neck. 

After several failed attempts to restore consciousness, Rahey performed a sternum rub and the inmate opened his eyes. He was subsequently rushed to a nearby hospital for further treatment, the sheriff said.

"We are proud of the heroes who work here!" the sheriff wrote the post.

This is possibly the sixth suicide attempt so far this year, according to Kara Janssen, whose law firm has sued the Alameda County Sheriff over the mental health care of inmates at the jail.

As part of her suit, the sheriff's office has been regularly notifying her firm of any inmate deaths or attempts at suicide. She said she was not notified of the attempted suicide on Monday.

Janssen said she was aware of five other attempts since the beginning of 2020, and the second suicide attempt since the pandemic started.

An investigation by KTVU last year revealed Santa Rita had the highest in-custody jail death rate in the Bay Area and an even higher rate than Los Angeles County, the largest jail system in the country. To date, 47 inmates have died at Santa Rita since 2014. 

An analysis of autopsies showed that about 80 percent of the suicides were inmates who were also kept in isolation.

There was no immediate word on what type of cell the inmate on Monday was being held in. 

Janssen said she is not surprised that someone tried to take his life during this time period. 

"The stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and associated cancellation of visiting and programs, is likely to lead to an increase in suicide attempts and deaths and we are already starting to see this happen at Santa Rita Jail," she said. "The jail must provide additional counseling, education, and meaningful support to inmates to address this issue before more people attempt to end their lives."

Sheriff Gregory Ahern on Tuesday is asking for just that help. He is requesting $318 million over the next three years to hire more deputies and mental health staff. 

Lisa Fernandez is a reporter for KTVU. Email Lisa at in new tab) or call her at 510-874-0139. Or follow her on Twitter @ljfernandez