Press Contact:

Kaedan Peters – 510-244-9817 –
Alameda County Jail Fight Coalition

San Lorenzo – Last Wednesday, the executive board of the San Lorenzo Education Association (SLEA) unanimously voted to oppose a proposed expansion of Santa Rita jail. The resolution calls for the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to reject $54 million in funding from the Board of State and Community Corrections and withdraw the county’s mandatory 10% match, which amounts to $7.3 million of general county funds. SLEA calls on the Supervisors to instead invest this money in community services. This resolution came after SLEA was approached by members of the Alameda County Jail Fight Coalition, a group of organizations and community members joining together to fight the expansion of Santa Rita jail.

SLEA President Donna Pinkney stated in a letter to Wilma Chan that “the $7.3 million…would be better spent on community-based treatment options, such as long-term supportive housing for people with mental illness and the implementation of robust diversion programs—solutions that mental health advocates say would meaningfully improve public health and safety.” Pinkney went on to comment on the national shift currently happening around the issue of imprisonment, and the increased calls to invest in alternatives to imprisonment. “People around the nation are starting to understand more deeply the consequences of mass incarceration that have led to collateral damage for individuals, families, and whole communities…Now is the time for you [Chan] and other county supervisors to step up and invest in programs and solutions that support our communities.”

Robert Guarino, a teacher of 24 years at Arroyo High School and SLEA Board Member, questioned the necessity of this expansion. “More beds for the mentally ill in our jail system only makes it easier to ignore the larger issues in addressing mental illness,” Guarino stated.  “Fiscally, why build while we rent space to other counties?” Currently, Alameda County is leasing out three unused units at Santa Rita jail to San Mateo and Monterey counties because of an excess of space.

Teachers have also objected to more money being wasted on the jail system, rather than invested in education. “I voted to support the resolution because I feel it’s important for our county and state to invest in education and not another jail, or expansion to a jail. As a Kindergarten teacher, and with a background in Early Childhood, I realize the importance of investing in our youth when they are young.” remarked SLEA Board Member Alberto Nodal, who is also a teacher at Colonial Acres Elementary School and a National Education Association delegate. “It’s a shame to see millions and millions of dollars go into jails instead of where they should be going, into schools and other resources for families.”

SLEA joins the Oakland Education Association (OEA), whose executive board passed a similar motion to oppose the $61.6 million in total funds for the jail proposal, and urges the Board of Supervisors to explore alternatives to imprisonment that keep families together and strengthen communities. OEA President Trish Gorman explained that “the members of the Oakland Education Association believe that we do not need to increase our capacity to imprison, but to increase our capacity to support our families and communities by seeking alternatives to incarceration.”

OEA Secretary Perry Bellow-Handelman commented that it was irresponsible for the Board of Supervisors to support such a jail expansion project without giving adequate time for the community to examine how much this new unit will truly cost. “My students’ parents are juggling multiple jobs and facing skyrocketing rent prices. Oakland Unified has one of the highest teacher turnover rates due to overcrowded classrooms and lack of teacher support. Our communities need affordable housing, living-wage jobs, and more teachers to allow for smaller class-sizes, not more spending on space to lock up our neighbors and families.” Perry is a teacher of seven years at Coliseum College Prep Academy.

The next Alameda County Board of Supervisors meeting is June 28th at 1221 Oak Street in Oakland, where an item regarding the jail expansion is expected to be heard. The Alameda County Jail Fight Coalition will be mobilizing to the meeting to oppose the expansion proposal.