Santa Rita Jail Population Peaks After Labor Day Weekend; Officials Report Only One COVID-19 Case in Custody – Weekly Highlights – Breaking Down COVID-19 In CA Jails

By Linh Nguyen


Last week, Santa Rita Jail saw a population spike over Labor Day Weekend, raising the population to the highest it has been since Apr. 10 when the jail began releasing individuals to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Despite the rise in population, ASCO did not confirm any new positive COVID-19 cases among the incarcerated population. 

Jail News

This week, the county’s Internal Affairs Office released a 100-page investigation report detailing the death of 20 year old Christian Madrigal in Santa Rita Jail in June 2019. Former Lt. Craig Cedergren admitted to making an “epic mistake” after chaining Madrigal to a cell door. This was a violation of jail policy. 

According to the report, another jail supervisor said Cedergren “called him within an hour after this incident occurred and told him something bad happened, and an inmate was going to die, and [that he] thought it was his fault.”

Madrigal died at the hospital five days after he hung himself with the chains he was bound with. 

The Alameda County District Attorney did not press criminal charges, but ASCO sought Cedergren’s termination a month after Madrigal died. Cedergren retired four days before he was supposed to have been fired.

The Internal Affairs investigators found that Cedergren was being negligent in his duties as a supervisor and failing to turn on his body camera. 

This report is the first that publicly details Cedergren’s thoughts and actions during the incident. He has repeatedly declined to respond to requests for comment. 

Housing Report

HU 9F went under quarantine on Tuesday Sep. 8 due to a pending COVID-19 test. It was released the next day on Wednesday Sep. 9 due to a negative test result for the index case.

HU 3E, 3F and 8B remain under quarantine indefinitely for incarcerated people with known exposure to COVID-19. These units have been under quarantine since July 31. 

Testing Report

This week, 192 new tests were completed with 41 tests pending results for next week. In total, 3555 tests have been completed.

On Sep. 7, Labor Day Monday, no tests were administered. On Sep. 9, 19 tests were completed, though no tests were pending results, which appears to be inaccurate as it is unlikely that the 19 administered tests would be returned on the same day. 

Two of the three incarcerated people were declared recovered from COVID-19 on Sep. 8. As of Sep. 12, there remains one confirmed person with COVID-19. In total, there have been 244 confirmed positive cases in Santa Rita Jail among the incarcerated population. 

There may be more active cases in the jail than what ACSO reports. These cases may be undetected because (a). individuals are asymptomatic or (b). individuals refuse testing to avoid isolation and quarantine if tested positive. 

Testing would need to be more widespread to confirm the true number of infected individuals in the jail so that they can be separated from those more susceptible to the virus. Furthermore, to encourage testing, quarantine protocols must also change so that individuals do not fear isolation in quarantine, as incarcerated narratives shared.

Population Report

Santa Rita Jail saw a population spike over Labor Day Weekend, raising the population to the highest it has been since Apr. 10 and since the jail began releasing individuals to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. On Monday Sep. 7, the jail population was 1977 people. 

Throughout the week, the jail population decreased by 35 people. As of Sep. 12, the jail population is 1942 people.

The current population is approximately 12% higher than the lowest recorded population since the pandemic, recorded on Apr. 25 when the population was 1726. Since then, the jail population has been steadily increasing. 

As stated in our previous weekly reports, Commander Yesenia Sanchez explained that the increase in population is a “usual thing experienced in any given year.”  

Sanchez also stated that the number of bookings is increasing due to the fact that they are “holding onto large numbers of people destined to go to state prison.”  CDCR does not allow transfers between correctional facilities at this time. 

Staff Report

On Sep 2, ACSO made a correction to prior reports that stated there have been 54 total staff COVID-19 cases. There had actually been 53 total staff COVID-19 cases.

Prior updates incorrectly counted the number of staff/contractor cases as 54. The total number of cases should remain as 53, last reported August 30. 4 staff/contractor personnel are current positive cases, with 49 staff/contractors having recovered,” the correction noted.

There are currently two active COVID-19 cases among jail staff. Staff members who test positive may not return to work until they are cleared per CDC guidelines.

Testing among the staff is voluntary and staff members also have the opportunity to self-quarantine if they are showing symptoms of illness or suspect they have come in contact with the virus.

About The Author

The Covid In-Custody Project partners with the Davis Vanguard to report on the pandemic's impact on California's county jails and state prisons. See for more information.

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