Micky Duxbury, Member of the Justice Team - First Unitarian Church of Oakland
Member of The Interfaith Coalition for Justice in Our Jails
As a person of faith living in Alameda County, I have been particularly concerned about conditions in our county jail. I find it incredulous that Sheriff Ahern stated that he is “The most innovative person in law enforcement in Alameda County.” Several programs that the Sheriff’s Department oversees provide valuable services to the community, but the conditions in our county jail do not reflect ‘innovative law enforcement.’ What they do reflect is a culture where many have been treated with abuse, neglect, and excessive force.
Over 70% of the people in our county jail are there because they are not able to post bail. Many of them are there for offenses having to do with drug addiction. The Sheriff runs a jail that focuses on punishment – not rehabilitation. Our communities are not any safer when people in the jail are treated with disregard and contempt along with enduring egregious conditions.
The Mercury News was on the mark in its Jan. 2019 editorial: “Over the last decade, the Sheriff’s Office misconduct has ranged from excessive force and neglect, to racial discrimination, to the illegal recording of privileged attorney-client conversations, leaving in its wake dead bodies, grieving families and costly lawsuits.”
Sheriff Ahern has been a leader - in creating a culture that has contributed to documented abuses on the part of his deputies that has led to over $15 million in legal settlements over the past five years.
We need a new sheriff to change the culture at the jail - someone that believes in the genuine possibility that people can change if they are given the resources and support, they need. Sheriff Ahern has shown himself incapable of making those changes.