Santa Rita Jail

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Coordinates: 37°43′2.17″N 121°53′16.53″W / 37.7172694°N 121.8879250°W / 37.7172694; -121.8879250

Santa Rita Jail
Aerial view of Santa Rita Jail.jpg
Aerial view of the housing units at Santa Rita Jail.
LocationDublin, California
Security classCounty Jail
Population2563[2] (as of Dec 2019)

Santa Rita Jail is a county jail located in Dublin, Alameda County, California, and operated by the Alameda County Sheriff's Office. With a design capacity of 3489,[2] Santa Rita is one of the largest prisons in the United States and larger than many California state prisons. The jail is adjacent to Federal Correctional Institution, Dublin, on the Camp Parks Reserve Forces Training Area.

Santa Rita has one of the highest rates of in-custody deaths for county jails in California, and has been the recipient of numerous lawsuits and class-action lawsuits regarding jail conditions and medical care.[3][4][5] As with most jails, the majority of people incarcerated in Santa Rita are in pre-trial detention and have not been convicted of a crime.[6]

History and facilities[edit]

Administrative entrance to Santa Rita jail.

The original Santa Rita Jail opened in 1947 as a replacement for Alameda's County Prison Farm. It was built on 1000 acres of Camp Schumacher, a World War II military base near the current site.[7] By 1983, overcrowding had become an issue, and plans were established for the construction of the current $172 million facility, which opened in 1989. Funding for the jail's construction was obtained through state bonds as well as local county matching funds.

The current 113-acre (0.46 km2)[8] facility is laid out in a modern decentralized "campus" design, similar to many modern prisons, one-half mile long by one-quarter mile wide. The facility has 18 separate, self-contained housing units, a "core" building containing central booking, release and administration, and a service building containing the laundry, commissary, kitchen and warehouses.

Santa Rita is rated to house up to 3,489 people, making it as large or larger than many California state prisons. It is the third largest jail in California and the fifth largest in the United States, and is considered a "mega-jail". An automatic robotic cart system moves all meals, laundry, commissary items, supplies and garbage through the jail, allowing maximal restriction of prisoner movement throughout the facility.[9] A 1.2 megawatt peak-power solar array was installed in Spring 2002 on the roofs of the housing units,[8] supplying nearly one half of the jail's power demand during daylight hours.[9] In May 2006, the Chevron Energy Solutions deployed a 1-megawatt fuel cell system that generates 8,000,000 kWh of electricity and 1.4 million British thermal units (410 kWh) of waste heat (50% and 18% of Jail's needs, respectively) from natural gas.[10]

Inmate Conditions[edit]

Santa Rita Jail became known for dangerous conditions for inmates. At least 68 inmates died between 2011 and 2020, largely from suicides and overdoses.[11][12] An investigation by KTVU found that for the years 2014-2019, Santa Rita Jail's death rate was 50% higher than Los Angeles County (13.6 to 8.9 deaths per 1,000 inmates) and was the highest in the Bay Area.[13] The investigation noted that the use of isolated confinement exacerbated mental health issues and may have driven more inmates to suicide.

In 2018, inmates filed a lawsuit alleging insufficient mental health care.[14] A US Department of Justice report released April 2021 found that the jail had become the county's largest provider of mental health services, and that its inadequate provision of care of inmates constituted a violation of their civil rights.[15][16] In February 2022, a federal judge approved a settlement calling for improved mental health services and staffing, to the objections of some inmates and advocacy groups. The US Department of Justice would monitor the settlement for six years.[17]

Bomb range[edit]

The Alameda County Sheriff's Office bomb range is located behind the Santa Rita Jail.[18]

It has come into the public eye by being featured in many episodes of MythBusters, and named as their #1 favorite location in their Top 12 Favorite Locations special. The MythBusters will often use this bomb range to safely and legally test myths regarding explosions, projectiles, and many other myths that cannot be tested otherwise without endangering civilians, made possible by the large, open landmass that gave them plenty of room to set their tests up while giving a large distance to stand away from the blasts. In the special episode, Adam Savage praised the flexibility of the bomb range by rhetorically asking "What can't you do there?!"

On December 6, 2011, while conducting an experiment on the effectiveness of various projectiles when fired out of a cannon, a MythBusters television crew sent a cannonball through the side of a house and into a minivan in a nearby Dublin neighborhood. The projectile had missed its intended target and instead soared 700 yd (640 m), striking a house and leaving a 10 in (25 cm) hole, before striking the roof of another house and smashing through a window of a parked minivan.[19][20]

Cultural references[edit]

  • Major portions of Tom Wolfe's novel A Man in Full (1998) take place at Santa Rita Jail, but the facility depicted in the novel was the pre-1989 jail which used World War II-era barrack-style buildings.
  • The Oakland based hip-hop group The Coup has a track titled "Santa Rita Weekend" on their 1994 album, Genocide & Juice.
  • In October 1967, the singer Joan Baez, her mother, and nearly 70 other women were arrested and incarcerated in the Santa Rita Jail for actions during an anti-draft rally. At the jail, where Baez spent eleven days (according to Baez' memoir, she had been sentenced to 45 days, but jail officials abruptly released her early, when they received word that a press conference was being planned for her scheduled release date), she met David Harris, an anti-draft activist whom she would later marry.[21]
  • M.C. Hammer was arrested February 21, 2013, in Dublin for allegedly obstructing an officer in the performance of his duties and resisting an officer (according to "stop and identify" statutes). Hammer claims he was a victim of racial profiling by the police. He stated an officer pulled out his gun and randomly asked him: "Are you on parole or probation?" Hammer stated that as he handed over his ID, the officer reached inside the car and tried to pull him out. Police in Dublin, east of Oakland, said Hammer was in a vehicle with expired registration and he was not the registered owner. "After asking Hammer who the registered owner was, he became very argumentative and refused to answer the officer's questions," police spokesman Herb Walters typed in an e-mail to CNN. Hammer was booked and released from Santa Rita Jail. A court date was scheduled and police have until then to decide on any charges. Hammer tweeted that he wasn't bitter and considered what happened "a teachable moment".[22][23][24][25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Board of State and Community Corrections. "Rated Capacities of Type II, III, & IV Local Adult Detention Facilities (Dec 2006 – Dec 2019; last update 1/9/20)". Board of State and Community Corrections. Archived from the original on 2019-11-15. Alt URL
  2. ^ a b Board of State and Community Corrections. "Jail Profile Survey Query". Board of State and Community Corrections. Archived from the original on 2020-06-07. Alt URL
  3. ^ California Department of Justice. "Death in Custody & Arrest-Related Deaths". California Department of Justice. Archived from the original on 2020-05-31.
  4. ^ California Department of Justice. "Death in Custody & Arrest-Related Deaths". California Department of Justice. Archived from the original on 2020-05-31.
  5. ^ Scott Morris (7 May 2019). "The Most Dangerous Place in Alameda County". East Bay Express. Archived from the original on 2020-05-31.
  6. ^ Board of State and Community Corrections. "Jail Profile Survey". Board of State and Community Corrections. Archived from the original on 2020-06-07. Alt URL
  7. ^ Alameda County Sheriff's Office. "Santa Rita Jail". East Bay Express. Archived from the original on 2020-05-31.
  8. ^ a b "Alameda County Santa Rita jail 1 MW fuel cell CHP system" (PDF). Pacific Region Combined Heat and Power Application Center. Retrieved 3 May 2012.
  9. ^ a b "Santa Rita Jail Fuel Cell Power Plant" (PDF). County Of Alameda, California. Retrieved 3 May 2012.
  10. ^ "Alameda County Santa Rita Jail Fuel Cell Project Overview" (PDF). Alameda County. Retrieved 3 May 2012.
  11. ^ Sharpe, Joshua (2022-06-03). "Bay Area sheriffs races shaped by simmering scandals, calls for transparency". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2022-07-25.
  12. ^ Fernandez, Lisa (2022-05-24). "58 people have died at Santa Rita Jail since 2014; interfaith group demands change". KTVU FOX 2. Retrieved 2022-07-25.
  13. ^ Fernandez, Lisa; Aponte, Simone; Savidge, Alex (2019-10-01). "Death rate at Santa Rita exceeds nation's largest jail system as critics call for reform". KTVU FOX 2. Retrieved 2022-07-27.
  14. ^ Morris, Scott (2021-08-30). "Alameda County jail's mental health care would be overhauled under proposed lawsuit settlement". The Oaklandside. Retrieved 2022-07-25.
  15. ^ Morris, Scott (2021-04-23). "U.S. Justice Department says Alameda County's mental health care system is unconstitutional". The Oaklandside. Retrieved 2022-07-25.
  16. ^ United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division (2021-04-22). "INVESTIGATION OF ALAMEDA COUNTY, JOHN GEORGE PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL, AND SANTA RITA JAIL". United States Department of Justice. Retrieved 2022-07-25.
  17. ^ Egelko, Bob (2022-02-08). "Judge signs off on Santa Rita jail settlement over inmates' objections". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2022-07-25.
  18. ^ Paul Thissen, "Errant 'MythBusters' cannonball hits home in Dublin", Contra Costa Times, December 2011
  19. ^ "'MythBusters' misfire sends cannonball through neighborhood". Los Angeles Times Mythbusters blog. December 7, 2011. Retrieved December 11, 2011.
  20. ^ "MythBusters stunt sends cannonball flying through Bay Area home". December 6, 2011. Archived from the original on January 15, 2012. Retrieved December 11, 2011.
  21. ^ "1967: Joan Baez arrested in Vietnam protest". BBC News. October 16, 1967. Retrieved May 6, 2010.
  22. ^ "MC Hammer arrested in obstructing officer case". CNN. 24 February 2013.
  23. ^ "MC Hammer -- Arrested for Obstruction, But Claims Profiling".
  24. ^ "MC Hammer arrested in California". Fox News. 25 March 2015.
  25. ^ "MC Hammer Arrested". HuffPost. 24 February 2013.

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