Bay City News

Dublin Demonstration Urges End to Late-Night Jail Releases After Berkeley Woman's Death

Dozens marched from Alameda County's Santa Rita Jail to the Dublin BART station Sunday evening in memory of a Berkeley woman who died of an apparent overdose just hours after she was released from the jail.

Jessica St. Louis, 26, was released from Santa Rita at 1:12 a.m. on July 28 and given a BART ticket. The closest BART station to the jail is the Dublin-Pleasanton stop, more than a mile away. Trains do not begin running until 5 a.m.

St. Louis' body was found four hours later near the passenger pick-up/drop-off area at the station. She is believed to have died from a drug overdose. The medical examiner concluded there was no foul play involved, according to the Alameda County Sheriff's Office.

Regardless of the cause of death, state Sen. Nancy Skinner, activists with the Young Women's Freedom Center and St. Louis's family believe the woman would not have died had she been released during the day and provided access to support services upon leaving the facility.

St. Louis walked the nearly two miles to the BART station. Her family says she had no cellphone and no way to contact them.

"Not knowing how they’re going to get to their destination or have someone pick them up and not even seeming to care," St. Louis's mother said about the jail officials. "It’s an unfair practice, and we’re personally livid."

Skinner is working on a bill that would curtail the late night jail releases and provide inmates more assistance to get home safely.

"Releasing a woman in the dead of the night under these circumstances is a recipe for tragedy," Skinner said in a statement earlier this month. "People need to be released at a reasonable hour and be given basic support to ensure they can enter our community safely and successfully."

Sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly has said St. Louis' death was "an unfortunate situation" but it appeared St. Louis had obtained drugs after leaving the jail. He said the jail releases up to 100 people a day around the clock and can't legally keep people in custody after their court-designated release times.

St. Louis had been at Santa Rita for 11 days on arrest warrants for a previous case, officials said.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

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