Santa Rita inmates strike over dirty bathrooms, bug infestation in cells

Inmates at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin went on a hunger and labor strike drawing attention to what they call poor conditions at the facility.

Yolanda Huang, a lawyer representing the inmates, organized the strike and held a news conference outside the jail on Wednesday.

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She said the inmates told her that at times, there are 30 people living in one cell, with only one bathroom. The inmates told her that the jail is only cleaned once a week, and it is infested with bugs.

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“There are clouds of gnats live in their cells with them,” Huang said. “They congregate around the toilets and the water. They can't eat food in their cells because the gnats fly into their faces and it's an intolerable situation."

The inmates presented a list of more than two dozen demands to jail superiors, including wanting better food and the ability to clean their cells at least twice a week.

FILE ART - Santa Rita Jail in Dublin.

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Alameda County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ray Kelly said he believes less than half the inmates took part in the protest. In two prior tours of the jail, Sheriff Gregory Ahern boasted how clean his facility was, including shiny brass door handles.

Huang is representing 29 women who have complained of mistreatment in the jail, including unsanitary conditions and not being given proper feminine hygiene materials. One of her clients, Candace Steele, filed suit against the sheriff after she alleged deputies ignored her cries for help and she ended up delivering a baby by herself, alone in an isolation cell.