By Crescenzo Vellucci Jr.
Vanguard Sacramento Bureau Chief
SACRAMENTO, CA – A social justice group and jail watchdog of sorts is urging the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors to cancel its long-standing contract with the U.S. Marshal Service that allows the jailing of people charged with federal crimes while waiting for their federal court proceedings.
“It is imperative that the Board of Supervisors completely cancel the contract with the U.S. Marshals and ensure county staff are working urgently to create a jail population reduction plan that enacts policy changes and budget investments to reduce jail bookings, expand pretrial releases, and build community-based care infrastructure,” said Decarcerate Sacramento, which is trying to shrink, not grow, the county jails.
According to Decarcerate Sacramento, the current Marshal contract “allows about 300 people to be incarcerated in the Main Jail, and the County is currently negotiating with the US Marshals to potentially reduce the number of individuals Sacramento detains, but this is not enough.”
The Sacramento County Jail, where suicides and mistreatment have resulted in millions of tax dollars paid out in lawsuits – including a $1.5 million wrongful death settlement announced just this last week, has sustained, said Decarcerate Sacramento, a bad reputation.
“Every federal detainee our coalition members have spoken with has been adamant in their desire to be ‘anywhere else’ but the Sacramento County Jail. The conditions in the Main Jail are notoriously dangerous and deadly, and many say they are experiencing the worst incarceration conditions they ever have—worse than any other jail or prison,” said Decarcerate.
The group added, “While the Mays consent decree requires 17 ‘out-of-cell’ hours per week, many women are reporting getting only one hour per day out of their cell. Federal detainees do not have access to programming while incarcerated in Sacramento County and have documented hair, bugs and mold in the food they are served.”
Decarcerate Sacramento explained “canceling the contract and enacting a new population cap would likely allow jail staff to respond to patients inside the jail in a more timely manner, increase out-of-cell time and allow for more ADA renovations in the current facility to meet the legal requirements of the Mays consent decree (without a costly new building).”
The group noted that in April of this year, “Mays Plaintiffs’ class counsel sent a letter to Sacramento County leadership calling for an end to the County’s contract to house federal detainees in the County Jail facilities. They also reiterated on June 3, 2022 that ‘housing these additional 300 federal detainees contributes to Jail population-related stressors that adversely impact efforts to implement the Mays Consent Decree.’”
Apparently, according to Decarcerate, the county promised to “reduce the jail population and improve jail conditions ‘as quickly as we can’ without building a jail annex of the Main Jail. Canceling this contract is an opportunity for the County to follow through on this promise. Reducing the jail population is the most effective way to improve jail conditions.”