On Tuesday June 13, AFSC joined dozens of community members and organizations from the Care First Coalition to call on Alameda County Supervisors to halt jail expansion, and invest instead in community mental health services.
The rally was opened with two invocations, including an indigenous dance and a spoken prayer, and featured speakers from participating organizations as well as family members of those who had lost loved ones to Santa Rita Jail, and also several speakers from inside Santa Rita Jail.
Family members of those who have died in jail pointed out that adding more resources and facilities to the jail will not solve the complex issues of public safety in the East Bay. Barbara Doss, the mother of Dujuan Armstrong, a 24 year old who died in 2018 at Santa Rita Jail stated, “we have a mental health crisis going on in our jail system, and you want to give them [Alameda County Sheriff’s Department] money? I don’t think so! Give it to mental health care, give it to the people who don’t have homes, give it to the people in Santa Rita to get out of Santa Rita!”
The rally ended with poetry and a funeral procession, including a somber recitation and pouring of libations for the nearly 70 people who have lost their lives at the deadly jail since 2014.
“The problem is not finding the money [for mental health services], the problem is political will, so it is up to us to create that political will now, and going forward.”
As the public awaits response from the board of supervisors, the Care First Community Coalition urges residents, community and faith groups, service providers and others to press for community investments, leading up to the Supervisors budget deliberations in the week of June 26. AFSC and the coalition will be attending county budget meetings to demand the county halt the jail expansion and invest in housing and mental health solutions.