Coronavirus: Amid new jail infections, South Bay activists push for more releases

Coronavirus: Amid new jail infections, South Bay activists push for more releases

SAN JOSE — With a new batch of jail infections surfacing in the past few days, South Bay civil-rights activists and families of Santa Clara County inmates took to their cars and hit the streets Thursday to beat the drum for pretrial and compassionate releases of people they say are in custody mostly because of poverty and a rigid justice system. “There are a lot of people who are incarcerated who don’t deserve to be there,” said Devon Atkinson, who was recently released from the Elmwood men’s jail in Milpitas. Atkinson described his firsthand experience about risks for a virus outbreak, echoing longstanding complaints from inmates — and some jail staff — about how social distancing continues to be difficult, if not impossible, in a jail setting. “Things are still overpopulated,” he said. “People are still sleeping next to each other.” Atkinson joined a car convoy of demonstrators organized by Silicon Valley De-Bug — as part of a week of similar rallies across the country — taking that message to pillars of the region’s criminal-justice infrastructure in North San Jose, passing by the San Jose Police Department, Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney’s Office, the Main Jail, Hall of Justice and juvenile hall. The demonstration comes as three new cases since Saturday have brought the county jail system’s total to six since mid-March. In addition, 11 jail employees have tested positive for COVID-19 at some point in that period. The ongoing risk of a jail-based virus outbreak has fueled wide efforts in ...
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