DUBLIN (KCBS) — Filthy cells, toilets and walls covered in blood and feces, and sexual harassment by sheriffs’ deputies – those are just some of the things women say they’ve endured at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin.
Four women who filed a federal lawsuit over the jail’s conditions have settled with Alameda County, and say the fact that they’re white helped bring about the settlement and changes at the jail.
Plaintiff Anne Weills said she hopes the settlement will result in better conditions for the women, mostly of color, who warned them not to make a fuss.
“Only the reason we have been able to file this lawsuit, and to some extent be successful with small changes, is because we are white, and we are more privileged,” Weills said.
In their lawsuit, Weills along with fellow plaintiffs Mollie Costello, Alyssa Eisenberg, and Tova Fry – arrested during a protest in Oakland in 2014 – claimed they were stripped to their bras, paraded through a hallway in front of male inmates, and then tossed into a ‘disgustingly filthy’ holding cell.
Eisenberg said there were no menstrual pads for women on their period, so they were forced to bleed onto the floor. “It was really humiliating, and it was unnecessary. I felt like it was just done in order to dehumanize, I guess,” Eisenberg said.
Alameda County settled the lawsuit for $130,000 and agreed to make a number of changes, including providing private areas for women being searched, access to menstrual pads, cells mopped once per shift and trash emptied every two hours.
Deputies will also received updated training on handling new arrestees, and the search policy clarified in that deputies cannot grasp or knead the arrestee’s body during a pat down search.
A portion of the $130,000 will go toward publicizing the new policy changes so that jail inmates are aware of their rights.
Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly said his department previously implemented the policy changes outlined in the settlement, as it is training deputies who work in the inmate intake unit and is keeping logs on when cells are cleaned and garbage is taken out.
Kelly said, “We have one of the cleanest jail facilities and our goal is to make sure it is sanitary and as clean as possible for all inmates.”
However, Kelly said Santa Rita sometimes gets overwhelmed when there are mass arrests during protests and said that might have been the situation when the four women were arrested and brought to the jail.
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