Alameda County Sheriff's Decision to Make Inmate Release Dates Public Stirs Concern Among Immigrant Rights Advocates

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Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern. - ALAMEDA COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE FACEBOOK
  • Alameda County Sheriff's Office Facebook
  • Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern.

The Alameda County Sheriff's Office recently instituted a new policy of making the release dates of inmates from county jails public on its "inmate locator" website. The move coincides with similar steps taken by the Orange County Sheriff's Office last month to publish inmate release dates as a means of circumventing the state "sanctuary" law, SB 54.

But unlike Orange County, where the sheriff said it's their intention to help federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, the Alameda County Sheriff's Office said today that their decision to make release dates public isn't about working with ICE.

"It’s part of a broader purpose of being transparent," said Sgt. Ray Kelly.

Immigrant rights advocates, however, question the timing of the move.

"This is really problematic that this implementation is happening now," said Yadira Sanchez of the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance. "It’s a further indication that Sheriff Ahern and his department are continuing to side with the Trump administration and [Attorney General] Jeff Sessions, and they’re seizing the moment to collaborate with ICE."

According to Kelly, release date information for inmates at the county's Santa Rita Jail in Dublin and Glenn Dyer Jail in Oakland have always been available to the public, but requestors had to call the jail. Now the information can be accessed online. Kelly said the move is in step with the state public records law and recent case law promoting the use of technology to allow faster access to information. It's also less work for sheriff's office employees who don't have to answer the phones.

Unlike Orange County and the Contra Costa Sheriff's Office — which also recently decided to make release dates public — the Alameda County Sheriff's website doesn't list all of the currently incarcerated people along with their release dates in one document. Instead, users of the system still need to know the name of a person who is detained in the jail before obtaining their information.

A screenshot of an inmate's record [redacted] showing their expected release date.
  • A screenshot of an inmate's record [redacted] showing their expected release date.

Kelly couldn't say when release dates were added, but the feature was approved recently and went live earlier this year.

SB 54 was passed last year and restricts local law enforcement from sharing information with ICE. The law drew opposition from the California State Sheriffs Association, of which Ahern is a member.

"It’s a true concern for the immigrant community and undocumented people," said Sanchez. "Even though the release of information is in a slightly different form, they’re still targeting immigrants. They’re seizing the moment to collaborate with ICE."

Kelly disagreed and said the new feature isn't likely to provide ICE agents with much assistance. "It’s not to bolster ICE, or make their job easier or better," he said.

But Jon Rodney with the California Immigrant Policy Center said the Alameda County Sheriff's decision could help immigration agents and is the wrong step for the operator of the county's jails. "Immigrants are a vital part of California, and Californians believe in compassion and equality, and we need from every county sheriff and elected officials to defend those values and not attack them," he said.

Kelly acknowledged that the move may not be well timed given the Orange County Sheriff's very public denunciation of the state sanctuary laws at a press conference last week.

When announcing his agency's decision to make inmate release dates public last week, Orange County Undersheriff Don Barnes told the press, "this is in response to SB-54 limiting our ability to communicate with federal authorities and our concern that criminals are being released to the street."

"We know that’s going to be said. This is very untimely for this to happen," said Kelly.

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