Midweek Message

Update, May 15

Jim Hopkins

May 14, 2021


As we come to the end of the week I offer some updates from LABC leaders.

From Vice-Moderator Marc Buffin. Marc is chairing our Re-Gathering Task Force and leading our preparations for a return to in-person Sunday worship on July 11. He is going to be providing updates like these in the weeks ahead:

What We Are Still Learning

We are still learning how well vaccines prevent you from spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 to others, even if you do not have symptoms. Early data show that vaccines help keep people with no symptoms from spreading COVID-19.

We are also still learning how long COVID-19 vaccines protect people.

We are still learning how many people have to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before the population can be considered protected (population immunity).

We are still learning how effective the vaccines are against new variants of the virus that causes COVID-19.

From Reverend Dave Robinson who is representing us on the Interfaith Coalition for Justice in Our Jails (related to Faith In Action East Bay). A letter to the Department of Justice and the Alameda County Supervisors:

The Interfaith Coalition for Justice In our Jails (ICJJ) brings members of diverse faith communities together to effect change within the Alameda County criminal justice system. We seek to reduce incarceration as a response to social problems and to decrease harmful conditions in the jail.

We advocate to minimize the number incarcerated and close the revolving door to jail – especially for those with mental health or housing needs. The jail must be safe, humane, and supportive of successful reentry into our communities.

ICJJ thanks you for your April 22, 2021, report critiquing Alameda County’s inadequate mental health services. , as you put it, “. . . many adults who rely on Alameda County for mental health services are without access to services that would allow them to recover, and instead end up cycling in and out of psychiatric institutions or incarcerated at Santa Rita Jail.”

Our research andadvocacy efforts substantiate your findings. While we agree that conditions must be improved at Santa Rita Jail, we strongly object to a strategy to resolve the problems primarily through single-minded, narrow improvements to jail conditions. Rather, reversing current practices, the majority of resources must be dedicated to expansion of community-based mental health and other services; in short, a mental health care system serving everyone.

Only with a sustained commitment to such a policy can our county move away from housing those with mental illness in our jail. As you point out, currently 40% of the people who are incarcerated from Alameda County have a mental illness. This is a mental health crisis and also a racial justice
crisis: an overwhelming majority of incarcerated people with mental illness in Alameda County are Black men.

In light of the fact that this report shows it to be nearly impossible to provide mental health services “in the most integrated settings appropriate” for the needs of individuals with mental health disabilities, we urge the DOJ and the Attorney General to intervene in related private suits that threaten further to promote the single-minded approach we mention above. Please review any proposed settlement of Babu vs. Ahern or other litigation that focus resolutions only or primarily on upgrades to County jail facilities. Settlement of Babu, for example, must focus on the provision of community- based mental health services and eliminate reliance on use of the County jail in lieu of care for individuals with serious mental illness in non-institutionalized settings.

Alameda County requires comprehensive, proactive planning and resource allocation, not reactive, litigation-driven attention to jail crises when things go wrong. Please let us know how we can support your efforts.


The Interfaith Coalition for Justice In Our Jails

Today on LABC Zoom – A Time For Prayer, 10:00 am

Tomorrow – Worship at 10:00, Bible Study at 11:45, AAPI Heritage Forum, “Telling Our Stories2:00 pm