It is time for a change at the top of law enforcement in Alameda County.
As Sheriff Greg Ahern completes his 16th year as sheriff and looks for yet another term, residents are becoming aware of the pitiable conditions that prevailed over the years at the county’s Santa Rita Jail in Dublin. Been going from
It is the result of part of a US Justice Department investigation released last year that prison officials called “deliberate indifference to the health and safety of an inmate.” Suicides in prison are twice the national average. Gross less employees. Trivial mental health counseling. Some inmates with severe mental health are required to be confined to their cells for all but five hours a week and are not allowed out.
Findings from the Justice Department, which has been investigating conditions at the prison since 2017, and a separate civil rights class action lawsuit filed in 2018 on behalf of inmates, led this year to a federal consent decree that would keep the prison in court. Supervision for at least six years.
In the June 7 election, Ahern faces a challenge from the division commander Yesenia Sánchez, appointed two years earlier, to oversee the prison. Sanchez has seen the circumstances from the inside, but lacks the authority to make the necessary changes.
“Where I see us right now is not healthy,” she said as she explained her decision to run against her owner. “I either live in an unhealthy organization or I try to do something about it.”
Kudos to Sanchez for having the courage to do the right thing – for fighting from within for the change needed in a currently broken operation. Voters should support him in that effort by electing Sanchez to be the county’s next sheriff.
Sanchez started as a technician in the sheriff’s office 25 years ago and has steadily risen through the ranks to his current position. He has served in county jails and as a patrol deputy, detective and watch commander. He has held key management positions and is now a commander in the Santa Rita Prison.
But it does not have the staff and the people needed to run the prison safely for the prisoners. That’s partly because, according to a consultant hired by both sides in the federal trial, the sheriff routinely hunts down prison deputies to fill the rest of his operation, which includes providing superior court protection and disorganized areas. and contracting cities. Services.
Under the consent decree, a team of experts will oversee the improvement of mental health care policies and practices in Santa Rita, which currently houses about 2,200 inmates. The agreement requires Alameda County to increase the number of mental health workers at the prison, provide prisoners with more time out of their cells, and take additional measures to prevent inmate suicide and self-harm.
To be sure, Ahern is not the only one responsible for some unconscious situations in prison. County supervisors who provided funding for the facility have also known about the problems for years.
But Ahern is directly responsible for the administration of the prison. He should have taken corrective action sooner and not reduced the prison staff for the rest of his operation. And Ahern is one of the only responsible elected officials to face a ballot challenge this year.
The second challenger in the race for sheriff is San Francisco police officer Joan Walker, who works with the Homeless Services Operations Center but lacks managerial experience.
Ahern has to go. And Sanchez is the only candidate willing to replace him, the only candidate with the necessary experience, understanding of the office, and the determination to implement change. Alameda County voters should choose Sanchez as their next sheriff.