Sen. Skinner hopes to end late-night jail releases after Berkeley woman's death

Photo of Jessica St. Louis courtesy of the Young Women's Freedom Center.

State Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, plans to draft legislation to end late-night releases of county jail inmates statewide following the death of a young Berkeley woman after she left Santa Rita Jail in Dublin last month.

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. 

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 in a statement. "People need to be released at a reasonable hour and be given basic support to ensure they can enter our community safely and successfully."

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.

The Young Women's Freedom Center is planning a march for 9 p.m. Aug. 19 from Santa Rita Jail to the Dublin-Pleasanton BART Station to demonstrate the experience of walking that route in the dark.