Allegations of poor sanitary conditions and, specifically, a lack of soap at the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin have been made in recent weeks. Activists worry the conditions at the jail, which houses roughly 2,200 inmates, could exacerbate the possibility of a coronavirus outbreak within the jail.
In response, Alameda County Supervisor Richard Valle said Tuesday that he will tour the Santa Rita Jail next Monday and report back to the board on its condition.
The Alameda County Sheriff’s Department has been criticized for a lack of transparency for how it plans to react to an outbreak in the jail, activists for the prisoners have repeatedly said. They also accused the sheriff’s department of not testing inmates in an effort to cover up a potential outbreak.
Dr. Erica Pan, the interim Alameda County public health officer, refuted the latter charge, telling the Board of Supervisors that inmates have indeed been tested for the virus. “There are a lot of assurances to prevent illnesses there,” Pan said.
None of the tests have come back positive, as of Tuesday, she added. But a nurse at Santa Rita Jail has now contracted coronavirus, it was reported on Thursday.
Alameda County Sheriff’s Commander Tom Madigan said suggestions that prisoners at the jail lack even a simple bar of soap are false, and that a protocol for responding to the coronavirus crisis is already in place. Furthermore, deputies, employees at the jail, and visitors are checked for their temperature, and prisoners are screened for symptoms of the virus.
However, in response to questions of how readily prisoners are able to adhere to social distancing while residing in small cells that often accommodate multiple people, Madigan said, “We do it to the best extent that we can. Obviously they’re confined areas.”