Today, State Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) reintroduced SB 42, the “Getting Home Safe Act,” to curtail dangerous, dead-of-night releases from county jails. Skinner proposed the bill in response to the tragic death of one of her constituents, Jessica St. Louis, who was released from Alameda County’s Santa Rita Jail at 1:25 in the morning on July 28th, 2018.
“It makes no sense that a jail would send someone walking alone to a closed train station in the dead of night,” said Senator Skinner. “Jessica’s death was a preventable tragedy.”
Jessica St. Louis was released from Santa Rita Jail with nothing more than a BART card—even though the nearest BART station was over a mile away and wouldn’t open for over four hours. At the time of her release Jessica did not have a working cell phone to contact friends or family in order to secure a safe place to go after her release. Just before sunrise, Jessica was found lifeless in front of the Dublin/Pleasanton BART station.
Jessica St. Louis is not the only woman to face danger after being released from Santa Rita. At an August 7th press conference hosted by reform advocates from the nonprofit Young Women’s Freedom Center, speakers shared accounts from other women who were intercepted by drug dealers, men attempting to recruit them into sex work, and others who tried to take advantage of them as they left Santa Rita Jail.
Senator Skinner’s office coordinated with members of the Sister Warriors Freedom Coalition (part of the Young Women’s Freedom Center) to develop the provisions contained in SB 42.
"We are grateful Senator Skinner stepped up to end late-night releases in honor of Jessica St. Louis and the hundreds of other women that have been negatively impacted by this practice,” said Jessica Nowlan, Executive Director of the Young Women’s Freedom Center. “Together we will make sure that California leads the way and ends this unsafe practice.”
SB 42 seeks to help women and others avoid dangers upon release by ensuring they can elect to be released from county jails during the daytime; are aided in enrolling in rehabilitative programs; and/or have access to transportation or a safe place to wait. SB 42 would not permit county jails to involuntarily hold someone beyond their release time, but would require that those scheduled to be released after business hours or sunset (whichever is later) be given the option to remain in the facility until the following day. If they decline, they must be provided a safe place to wait for pickup and/or free transportation to a location of their choice within the county or a 100-mile radius.
SB 42 would also ensure people released from jail may make at least three phone calls from the county jail, as well as access to a cell phone charging station. Additionally, SB 42 would create a Late-Night Release Prevention Task Force, made up of women, girls and others formerly incarcerated, to study and report back on the issues of late-night releases and the implementation of the Getting Home Safe Act.
“My bill will protect people at the point they are released, and by minimizing releases at unsafe times will also improve the health and safety of our communities,” said Senator Skinner.
Senator Nancy Skinner (@NancySkinnerCA) represents the 9th Senate District.