NOTICE OF CLASS ACTION SETTLEMENT
TO ADDRESS CONDITIONS AT SANTA RITA JAIL

A proposed settlement has been reached in Babu, et al., v. County of Alameda, et al., N.D. Cal. No. 5:18-cv-07677.  The Babu case is a federal class action lawsuit challenging: the adequacy of mental health care and treatment at the Jail; suicide prevention and the use of safety cells; overuse of isolation and adequacy of out-of-cell time; access to programs, services and activities especially for persons with mental health disabilities; discharge planning for people with mental health disabilities; sufficiency of accommodations in disciplinary proceedings and in pre-planned use-of-force incidents for persons with mental health disabilities; and the overall policies, procedures, and practices regarding COVID-19 on behalf of all people incarcerated at the Jail.  You are a member of this class if you are currently incarcerated in Santa Rita Jail.  

The Babu case is only about improving Jail conditions and does not seek money damages.  No one incarcerated in the Jail will receive any money as a result of this lawsuit.  Nor does the proposed Consent Decree release any claims for monetary damages class members may have, or affect your rights or ability to petition for a writ of habeas corpus

The County has worked cooperatively with attorneys for the Plaintiff class to resolve the complex issues in this case through the Consent Decree.  The Court has preliminarily approved the Consent Decree in this matter.  This notice explains the proposed Consent Decree, how you can see it, and how you can tell the court whether you think it is fair.

The Consent Decree outlines specific conditions in the Jail that the County has agreed to change and how the Jail will operate in the future.  Key terms of the Consent Decree include the following. 

  1. The County will be required to:
    • Ensure that people in the Jail receive adequate mental health care, including by ensuring adequate staffing, establishing levels of care, creating treatment plans for eligible individuals, providing treatment services, and implementing Therapeutic Housing Unit(s) to provide additional mental health support to those who need it;
    • Ensure that people in the Jail are offered adequate out-of-cell time each day, including a process for significantly increasing the amount of out-of-cell time offered at the Jail within three months of the effective date. The Jail will continue to increase the amount of out-of-cell time offered until the Jail reaches the new minimum out-of-cell times set out in the Consent Decree which will be to offer at least: 14 hours out-of-cell time per week for people in Restrictive Housing, Recreate Alone Status (Step 1); 21 hours out-of-cell time per week for people in Restrictive Housing, Recreate Together Status (Step 2); and 28 hours out-of-cell time per week for people in General Population celled housing.  Individuals housed in the most restrictive setting within the Therapeutic Housing Units will be offered at least 28 hours of out-of-cell time per week and people housed in the less restrictive, transitional units within the Therapeutic Housing Units will be offered at least 35 hours of out-of-cell time per week;
    • Take measures to prevent suicide and self-harm in the Jails, including severely curtailing the use of safety cells and limiting placement in them to no more than 8 hours (which will be further reduced to no more than 4 hours after construction of suicide-resistant cells), and implementing procedures and assessments to identify individuals at risk upon arrival at the Jail;
    • Ensure that individuals with mental health disabilities can access programs and services at the Jail and ensure that those programs are offered throughout the Jail, consistent with their classification; and
    • Implement a new classification system that limits the use and duration of restrictive housing.
  2. Joint neutral experts and Class Counsel will monitor the County’s compliance with the Consent Decree. The Department of Justice will also receive certain access to the Jail and documents in connection with its April 22, 2021 report of investigation.
  3. The parties can bring any disputes about whether the County is complying with the Consent Decree back to the Court.
  4. The lawyers for people incarcerated in the Jail, also known as “class counsel”, are Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld LLP (RBGG). Class counsel will ask the Court to have Defendants pay their attorneys’ fees and expenses. If approved by the Court, the Consent Decree requires Defendants to pay RBGG’s fees and expenses in the amount of $2,150,000.00 for the work done so far and also requires the County to pay monitoring fees to the attorneys each year throughout the term of the Consent Decree subject to the caps set out in the Consent Decree.

You can read about all of these changes in the Consent Decree. A copy is available in a binder in each housing unit.  You can also view the Consent Decree on your tablet. 

A copy of the Consent Decree and key filings in the case are linked below.

Copies of the Consent Decree can also be obtained by contacting Class Counsel at the address or phone number below; or by accessing the Court docket in this case through the Court’s Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system at https://pacer.uscourts.gov/; or by visiting any office of the Clerk of the Court for the United States District Court for the Northern District of California between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding Court holidays.

Jeffrey Bornstein     Kara Janssen
Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld LLP
101 Mission Street, Sixth Floor
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 433-6830 (collect calls accepted)

PLEASE DO NOT TELEPHONE THE COURT OR THE CLERK’S OFFICE TO ASK ABOUT THE SETTLEMENT

The Court will hold a hearing on the fairness of this settlement at on January 19, 2022, at 1:00 p.m. via Zoom webinar, before the Honorable Nathanael Cousins at the United States District Court, Northern District of California, San Jose Courthouse, Courtroom 5 – 4th Floor, 280 South 1st Street, San Jose, CA 95113.  The date of this final approval hearing may change without further notice to the Class. 

If you do not think the settlement is fair, you can write to the Court, also known as “objecting”, and the Court will consider your comments when deciding whether to approve the Consent Decree.  The Court can only approve or deny the Consent Decree.  The Court cannot change the terms of the Consent Decree.

Any objections must include the case name, Babu, et al., v. County of Alameda, et al., and case number, N.D. Cal. No. 5:18-cv-07677, as well as your name, address, and signature.  Objections may be submitted by filing them in person at any location of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California no later than December 31, 2021, or sent by mail.  If mailed, your objections must be postmarked no later than December 31, 2021, and sent to the following address:

Clerk of the Court
United States District Court
Northern District of California
280 South 1st Street
San Jose, CA 95113