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Kehilla Members Support Limiting Reliance on Santa Rita Jail for Mental Health Needs of People in Custody

In April, more than 50 Kehilla members and friends participated in a postcard campaign directed at the Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, urging her, in light of the pandemic, to act with urgency to release many groups of people incarcerated at Santa Rita Jail. At least another 45 people associated with the Interfaith Coalition for Justice in our Jails (ICJJ; Kehilla is a founding member) did the same.

Over the next month members of the Kehilla Economic Justice Committee (EJC) and (at least 3 times) Rabbi Dev – along with members and clergy from at least 10 additional congregations – contacted Alameda County Board of Supervisors to urge a NO vote on a staffing increase proposal at Santa Rita Jail, ostensibly designed to serve mental health needs of those in custody.

Instead of investing in community-based mental health treatment and alternatives to incarceration, this measure aimed to authorize an $106M annual increase in spending for SRJ, despite significant decreases in the Santa Rita population since 2012. Notwithstanding these intense efforts, the Board approved the measure 3-2 on May 12. The EJC and other organizations/congregations working on criminal justice reform feel seriously disappointed by this result but vow to keep fighting this misguided direction. One silver lining was the intensity of support for the NO vote, described beautifully in this interview by EJC member Myrna Schwartz with EJC Chair Karen Rachels. Please listen to Myrna and continue to tune in here for other ways to keep up the fight!




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The Weekly, Kehilla’s newsletter, is released every Thursday.