News Roundup for Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Settlement Reached in Lawsuit Over Prison Conditions at Santa Rita Jail

Alameda County officials have agreed to a $130,000 settlement for four women who sued the county for the unsanitary conditions they encountered at the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin in 2014 after they were arrested at a protest in Oakland.

The four women described the settlement of their federal civil rights
suit as “a small victory” in achieving policy changes at the jail,
reducing the sexual harassment of women arrestees and improving the
conditions under which they are held.

Plaintiffs Anne Weills, Tova Fry, Alyssa Eisenberg, and Mollie Costello
were taken to Santa Rita after they were arrested for civil disobedience
at the state building in downtown Oakland on February 13, 2014. They were
part of a larger group demanding that California Attorney General Kamala
Harris prosecute police officers who’ve killed suspects, particularly Oakland
Officer Miguel Masso, who killed 18-year-old Alan Blueford on May 6, 2012.

The women say that when they were taken to Santa Rita they were
taken into a public hallway and told to strip to their bras. They declined
to do so and one of them was forced to walk around in that state in front
of male guards and prisoners, according to attorney Yolanda Huang, who filed
the suit on behalf of the women.

Two of the women were then locked in isolation cells and denied access
to a toilet for hours, Huang said. The women were then held with other women
in filthy jail cells in which toilets were overflowing, there weren’t any
menstrual pads for women who needed them and there weren’t garbage containers,
which meant that used menstrual pads sat on top of leftover food, according
to Huang.

The settlement calls for a number of policy changes, including an
acknowledgement by jail officials that women who are searched are entitled to
privacy and the installation of screening curtains for that purpose. It also
calls for a 16-hour training program for deputies who are assigned to the unit
where new arrestees are taken and for deputies to check on arrestees.

In addition, it clarifies that deputies conducting a search can’t grasp or
knead an arrestee’s body and requires that garbage bags be installed in all
cells holding women arrestees, that women arrestees be promptly provided with
menstrual pads and that cells will be cleaned of garbage at least once every
two hours.

A portion of the $130,000 settlement will be used to continue to work toward
insuring the continued improvement of conditions at Santa Rita Jail, including
publicizing these new policy changes so women know. Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt.
Ray Kelly said his department previously implemented the policy changes outlined
in the settlement, as it is training deputies who work in the inmate intake unit
and is keeping logs on when cells are cleaned and garbage is taken out.

Kelly said, “We have one of the cleanest jail facilities and our goal is to
make sure it is sanitary and as clean as possible for all inmates.”However,
Kelly said Santa Rita sometimes gets overwhelmed when there are mass arrests
during protests and said that might have been the situation when the four women
were arrested and brought to the jail.

Alameda County Jail to End Contract with Healthcare Provider Corizon

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors indicated Tuesday that it plans to
ends its relationship with Corizon Health Inc., which has been providing health
care to the county’s jail inmates for 28 years but has faced several lawsuits
over inmate deaths.

At the end of a lengthy hearing about the complicated process for awarding
a new contract for jail health care services, the board voted unanimously to
reject the recent recommendation by county Auditor-Controller Steve Manning
that it reopen bidding for the new contract because of alleged flaws in the

On April 29, a six-person panel appointed by county officials recommended
that Monterey-based California Forensic Medical Group be awarded a three-year
contract to provide health care for the 2,800 inmates who are housed at the
county’s Santa Rita Jail in Dublin and Glenn Dyer Jail in Oakland. The contract
hasn’t been finalized but is estimated to be worth at least $90 million.

But Corizon, which is based in Brentwood, Tenn., and has been providing jail
health care services for the county since 1988, filed an appeal and Manning found
that there were ambiguities in the request for proposals process and said all bids
should be rejected and the county should start the process over again, which would
take another six months. Supervisor Nate Miley said at Tuesday’s meeting, “It’s
rare that I don’t agree with the auditor’s position” but he said that in this case
he thinks Manning is wrong and the bidding process was completed properly the
first time.

The board couldn’t legally award the contract to the California Forensic Medical
Group Tuesday because approval of the contract wasn’t on its agenda so it scheduled
a special meeting for 10:30 a.m. on Friday to consider awarding the contract at that
time. In 2015, Corizon agreed to pay $8.3 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit
that was filed on behalf of the family of Martin Harrison, who died in custody at
Santa Rita in 2010.

In February, the family of Mario Martinez filed a wrongful death suit against
Corizon for his death at Santa Rita on July 15, 2015. The family’s attorney, John
Burris, alleged that Corizon and the Alameda County sheriff’s office, which oversees
the jails, failed to provide adequate health care for Martinez, who suffered from
asthma and nasal polyps, even though they’d been ordered to do so by a judge.

The California Forensic Medical Group’s general counsel, Ben Rice, told the Board
of Supervisors that it should award the jail health care contract to the company because
the six-month bidding process was “open and fair.” Rice said the panel that conducted the
process rated CFMG the highest out of the three companies that submitted bids, giving it
440 points out of 500. He said another company had a score of 428 points and Corizon was
rated last with only 305 points.

But Dr. Harold Orr, Corizon’s clinical director in Alameda County, said he thinks
Corizon has done “a very admirable job” in providing health care to inmates and said
he was “shocked” by how poorly the panel rated the company. Orr said the bidding wasn’t
conducted properly, saying, “If you have a flawed process you have a flawed result.”

Orr admitted that “a couple of unfortunate things have happened”
to inmates at Alameda County’s jails but he pointed out that CFMG also faces
legal problems, as it is facing a class-action lawsuit in Monterey County
over medical and mental health care.

Kim Tavaglione, an organizer for the National Union of Healthcare Workers, which
represents nurses and health care workers at the jails, urged the board to give the
new contract to CFMG as soon as possible, saying that it is “torture” for them to
work for Corizon and “they absolutely don’t want an extension” of Corizon’s contract.

Dennis Dugan, another organizer for the union, said the union is upset that Corizon
laid off 49 licensed vocational nurses just before Christmas and another 16 in February.
Kip Hallman, CFMG’s chief executive, said the company could begin providing health care
at Alameda County’s jails on Sept. 1 if it’s awarded the new contract soon.

Cal Fire Investigation of Soberanes Fire Making Progress

An abandoned campfire caused the massive Soberanes Fire that has burned more than
44,000 acres north of Big Sur in Monterey County, Cal Fire officials said Tuesday.
The campfire was reported by two hikers just as the fire broke out on July 22. The
hikers needed to move to a place where there was cellphone reception to report the
fire, so the precise location of the abandoned campfire hadn’t been determined.

Cal Fire investigators are asking anyone who was in the area of Garrapata State
Park that morning and might have seen something to call (800) 468-4408. The fire was
25 percent contained at 44,300 acres as of Tuesday evening. The rugged terrain has
made it difficult for the 5,522 firefighters working to extinguish the blaze. It
began around 8:45 a.m. on July 22 at Soberanes Creek in Garrapata State Park, Cal
Fire officials said. Investigators estimate that the fire won’t be fully contained
until the end of the month.

PG&E crews have begun repairing power lines and poles that were damaged in the
fire, starting in Carmel-by-the Sea, utility officials said. Six outages have been
reported since the fire broke and flames continue to threaten equipment and facilities
in the area, according to PG&E. Crews will continue to work to return service and rebuild
infrastructure as safely and as quickly as possible, PG&E officials said.

Smoke was expected to clear Tuesday afternoon in many cities north of the fire,
including Gilroy, Santa Cruz and Salinas, according to Cal Fire. Heavy smoke along the
coast was forecasted to head east Tuesday and air quality is estimated to improve on
Wednesday, agency officials said. The fire claimed the life of 35-year-old Fresno County
resident Robert Oliver Reagan III, a private contractor who was operating a bulldozer
that rolled over last week, according to Cal Fire.

Teams have been assigned to investigate the circumstances surrounding Reagan’s death
and what started the fire. The blaze has also destroyed 57 homes and 11 outbuildings in
addition to damaging three structures and two outbuildings, Cal Fire officials said.
Inspectors are assessing how much damage was left behind with help from the Monterey
County Office of Emergency Services, according to Cal Fire. Roughly 350 residents have
been evacuated in areas including the Palo Colorado community, Old Coast Road and
Tassajara Road.

On July 26, a state of emergency was issued for Monterey County because of the
widespread fire. Evacuees can receive assistance at a center set up at All Saints’
Day School located at 8060 Carmel Valley Road in Carmel-by-the Sea, according
to Cal Fire. People have been allowed to return to the areas of Carmel Highlands,
Santa Lucia Preserve, Riley Ranch Road, Red Wolf Drive and Corona Road, Cal Fire
officials said.

Many people have been warned of possible evacuations as the fire threatens 2,000
structures. Closures remain in place along multiple roads, state parks and trails
at Los Padres National Forest within the impacted area, Cal Fire officials said.
On July 25, crews came across two hikers who jumped out from a bush and sought
assistance in escaping the fire area, Monterey County sheriff’s spokeswoman Jo Anna
Butron said.

The pair admitted they were cultivating 900 marijuana plants that
had burned in the fire, but weren’t arrested or cited because of a lack of
evidence, Butron said. The following morning, the sheriff’s search and rescue team
assisted six hikers in the Bouchers Gap area who called 911 for help after they
heard fire equipment and helicopters nearby, according to Butron.

The group of six was dehydrated and without food or water. They originally began
the trip three days earlier with eight people and weren’t sure what happened to two
people who went missing, Butron said. The six hikers were picked up by a helicopter
crew and dropped off at Bixby Bridge, according to Butron.

It’s not clear if the two hikers who confessed to the marijuana grow were part
of the larger group that was rescued, she said. On Thursday, firefighters came across
two duffel bags filled with marijuana that was turned over to the sheriff’s office, but
investigators don’t know where it was found or whom it belongs to, Butron said. The Society
for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for Monterey County has taken in 100 pets at its
Salinas shelter, nonprofit officials said.

Donations to those affected by the fire can be made at the Big Sur State Park Multi-Agency
Building at 47555 Highway 1 in Bug Sur, over the phone at (831) 667-3173 or by email at Contributions can also be made to the Community Foundation for
Monterey County, which is forming grants to help nonprofit groups and organizations provide
services such as temporary housing assistance or health services for anyone impacted by the
fire. More information on the fund can be found at

(News by Bay City News)