The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday that it has released more than 300 inmates from Santa Rita Jail in Dublin as a safety measure in an effort to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Sheriff Gregory Ahern said in a phone interview that he took that action at the request of Alameda County Presiding Judge Tara Desautels, Public Defender Brendon Woods and District Attorney Nancy O’Malley.
Ahern said 247 inmates were approved for early release after their sentences were modified and another 67 inmates were released by the court on their own recognizance.
Ahern said his office will continue to release inmates when it’s feasible while still protecting the public’s safety. He said the inmates who’ve been released were relatively low-level offenders.
The release of the 314 inmates reduces the number of inmates at Santa Rita to 2,401, according to sheriff’s officials.
Ahern said he has directed police departments in Alameda County to only bring serious offenders to Santa Rita to be booked so that the jail doesn’t get too crowded.
He said in discussions with police chiefs in the county, he has told them to issue misdemeanor citations in the field when it’s feasible.
But Ahern said:
“All felony suspects are still being booked into Santa Rita.”
Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly said Ahern’s directive resulted in only 46 new inmates being booked into Santa Rita on Wednesday, which he said is much fewer than the normal level of about 100 inmates a day.
Kelly said an additional 14 new inmates had been booked as of 1 p.m. Thursday.
Ahern said deputies who normally work at Alameda County courthouses that are now closed because of COVID-19 have been reassigned to work at Santa Rita.
He said deputies who work at the jail have been placed on mandatory overtime because of the coronavirus so the reassignment of the courthouse deputies has reduced the strain on jail deputies.
Referring to the coronavirus pandemic, Ahern said:
“We’re all very apprehensive and the effect on our lives is very pronounced. But my deputies have responded to every request and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Kelly said no one in the sheriff’s office has tested positive for COVID-19 so far.