United States Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins issued an order on March 16, 2020 offering the Court’s assistance in protecting the health and safety of people incarcerated at the Santa Rita Jail. In that order the Court stated it is “concerned by the potential impact of the global coronavirus pandemic on the health and safety of the Inmate Class and Disability Class at Santa Rita Jail” noting that “a coronavirus outbreak in the jail additionally could have serious and long-term consequences to Jail staff and in the community at large.” 

The Court held telephonic hearings on March 30, 2020, April 2, 10, 17 and 24th, 2020. At the Court’s request the hearing included representatives from the Alameda County Public Defender’s Office, the Probation Office, the Public Defender, the medical provider in the Jail – Wellpath, and federal law enforcement agencies that interact with the Jail including the United States Marshal, United States Attorney, Pretrial Services, Probation, Federal Public Defender, and CJA Panel Administrator. 

 Links to the Court’s Orders and the joint response filed by the parties are provided below.


Including federal agencies in the hearing was key given the hundreds of pre-trial detainees held at Santa Rita Jail. As RBGG’s Jeff Bornstein noted in an interview with The Recorder, “It’s very distressing that not one federal detainee has been released from custody.” While local officials have worked to release over 300 prisoners and detainees from the Jail due to the crisis, “the federal powers that are have not been able to come together” and act as quickly as local officials. Full article and other coverage of the hearing linked below.

While local official rush to address crowding at Santa Rita Jail, federal detainees linger, The Recorder, March 30, 2020

In COVID-19 move Alameda County cut its jail population – a new state policy could undermine that, Berkeleyside, April 1, 2020