The Santa Rita Jail

Santa Rita JailThe Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, California, is the third largest facility in the state and the fifth largest in the nation. Serving Alameda County, it is considered a “mega-jail” and is the only jail in California to be accredited by the American Correctional Association. Designed in 1983, it cost $173 million to build. State bonds and matching local funds bore the construction costs, and the facility opened on September 1, 1989. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Department, Dublin’s fifth largest employer, runs the sprawling facility. Each year, as many as 60,000 inmates go through the jail.

Housed on 113 acres, the Santa Rita jail holds 4,000 inmates in 18 housing units that span the length of the facility for half a mile. There is a main building that has two wings. The east side houses more than 300 inmates within protective custody units and minimum security dorms. Maximum security inmates and administrative segregation units for problem inmates are held in double-bunk cells on the west side. In one day, the Alameda County Sheriff’s department processes more than 400, some days up to 600, inmates through the facility. Laundry, supplies, and food are delivered through an innovative robotic system. Inmates have access to on-site medical and mental health services, and are served 12,000 meals per day through the facility’s cook-chill food service operation.

The Jail in Santa Rita

A solar power system partially powers the facility’s state-of-the-art processes. A microgrid consisting of a rooftop solar array, wind turbines, a fuel cell, and batteries for energy storage, makes the Santa Rita Jail the greenest modern jail in the world. The grid is set up so that if California’s power grid, to which the facility is connected, goes down due to a natural disaster, the jail will continue to operate on its own. This technological advance ensures the safety of all inmates and staff during potentially dangerous conditions. Santa Rita’s innovative system puts the facility on par with other large-scale projects that are blazing a trail in energy consumption nationwide.

The Santa Rita Jail boasts many services for inmates which are funded by the Inmate Welfare Fund. The Alameda County Library provides books, magazines, and periodicals for inmates, as well as a literacy program to improve reading and writing skills and a family literacy program for the children of inmates. There are also occupational programs that enable inmates to earn certificates in food service, barbering, or cosmetology. For inmates who have children, programs for both mothers and fathers serve to promote stronger family units. Substance abuse programs such as Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous are available for inmates both during and after incarceration. Inmates can also occupy their time with recreational activities like music programs, motivational speakers, and sports programs such as softball, basketball, and handball.

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