Rally and march for young Berkeley woman who died after late-night jail release

A rally was held on Sunday for a young Berkeley woman who died after she left Santa Rita Jail in Dublin and was given a BART ticket to take the train in the wee hours of the morning.

Activists marched beginning at 9 p.m. from the Santa Rita Jail to the Dublin-Pleasanton BART Station to demonstrate the experience of walking that route in the dark.

Jessica St. Louis, 26, was released from Santa Rita at 1:12 a.m. on July 28 and given a BART ticket. The closest BART station to the jail is the Dublin-Pleasanton stop, more than a mile away. Trains do not begin running until 5 a.m.

St. Louis' body was found four hours later near the passenger pick-up/drop-off area at the station. She is believed to have died from a drug overdose, but toxicology reports are still pending. The medical examiner concluded there was no foul play involved, according to the Alameda County Sheriff's Department. 

St. Louis' mother, Benita Turner, told KTVU that it just seems like no  one in government cared at all about her daughter and she believes that the system can do better."

State Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, was at the rally. She is drafting legislation to end such late-night releases of county jail inmates statewide. 

Regardless of the cause of death, Skinner, activists with the Young Women's Freedom Center and St. Louis' family believe the woman would not have died had she been released during the day and provided access to support services upon leaving the facility.

"Releasing a woman in the dead of the night under these circumstances is a recipe for tragedy," Skinner said. "People need to be released at a reasonable hour and be given basic support to ensure they can enter our community safely and successfully."

Skinner added: "There were no assuruances that she had contacted anyone, that she had a safe place to go or had transportation."

In  a previous interview, Sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly has said St. Louis' death was "an unfortunate situation" but it appeared St. Louis had obtained drugs after leaving the jail. He said the jail releases up to 100 people a day around the clock and can't legally keep people in custody after their court-designated release times.   

St. Louis had been at Santa Rita for 11 days on arrest warrants for a previous case, officials said.