Grand jury conducts limited review of Santa Rita Jail, finds intake and grievance procedures OK

FILE ART - Santa Rita Jail

The Alameda County Grand Jury on Monday published a report showing they found nothing wrong with Santa Rita Jail's intake, release and grievance procedures.

Jurors decided to look at these issues following the drug overdose death of Jessica St. Louis who was released from jail late at night and dropped at a BART station where trains don't start running until 5 a.m. and Candace Steele, a mother who told 2 Investigates she was forced to give birth in an isolated jail cell. After that interview, Sheriff Greg Ahern disputed the complaints of several women who have sued the jail, calling Santa Rita the "best big jail in the nation."

Women sue Santa Rita over humiliating treatment; sheriff says facility is 'best big jail in the nation' 

The jurors had no sustained findings, and no recommendations to offer the sheriff or jail. They found the procedures to be "thorough with an emphasis on the safety of inmates and staff. No significant issues were identified."

However, jurors also acknowledged they did not talk to any inmates, only jail management. They also did not conduct a traditional facility-wide inspection of the jail. 

"The Grand Jury met with the jail's senior management and medical teams, then inspected the intake and release areas. Jail staff provided the statistical information in this report; the Grand Jury was not able to verify the data independently," jurors noted.

Jose Bernal, a senior organizer at the Ella Baker Center, which has been a frequent critic of the sheriff and has repeatedly called for an audit of the entire agency, said: "The report from the Alameda County Grand Jury is another example of why we need a truly independent audit of the ACSO. The Grand Jury spent one day being spoonfed unverified information from Santa Rita senior management and their report barely scratches the surface of the serious allegations of human rights abuses committed by staff at the jail."