Ask Governor Newsom to Remove Sheriff Gregory Ahern from the Lottery Commission!
TEXT: We, the undersigned, concerned citizens of California ask the Governor of California, Gavin Newsom, to immediately remove Sheriff Gregory Ahern from the California Lottery Commission. According to the California State Lottery Act § 8880.16 (f): “The Governor may remove any Commissioner upon notification to the Commission and the Secretary of State.” As a strong advocate for human rights and a supporter of California’s immigrant community, Governor Newsom has taken courageous stands defending California values. Sheriff Ahern, however, does not represent the values of the California Lottery or the state of California. As Alameda County Sheriff, he has repeatedly abused his authority and been responsible for harm to those under his department’s care.
The California Lottery is supposed to embrace the values of integrity and transparency, but Sheriff Ahern’s record in 12 years as Alameda County Sheriff is inconsistent with those values. Over the last decade, Sheriff Ahern’s budget has grown by 48 percent to $443 million this year, despite a daily jail population that has shrunk by 45 percent. Yet, calls from community members for transparency via a comprehensive financial and performance audit of his department have fallen on deaf ears.
Moreover, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office has perpetrated a stunning array of human rights abuses on Sheriff Ahern’s watch. The Sheriff Department’s own records report 33 in-custody deaths in the last 5 years. In June of 2018, two prisoners died at the Santa Rita Jail in three days time. That includes the death of Dujuan Armstrong, whose family has still not received an explanation from the Sheriff’s Office, despite repeated requests for answers. In addition, Jessica St. Louis died of a drug overdose on July 28, 2018 after being released from Santa Rita Jail in the middle of the night 40 minutes from the BART station.
“The Alameda County Sheriff's Office has racked up more than $15.5 million in settlements and judgments in civil rights cases” between 2015 and 2018, according to The East Bay Express, “more than any other law enforcement agency in the region.”“Allegations in some recent lawsuits depict a jail system that punishes rather than treats prisoners who need medical care,” according to The Appeal. “Mentally ill prisoners who say they were denied treatment and locked in isolation cells. A prisoner tased and beaten to death while suffering alcohol withdrawal. Women reportedly pressured to get abortions, and one woman forced to give birth on the cold concrete floor of an isolation cell in Santa Rita.”
Since 2014, 29 courageous women have come forward with civil suits against Sheriff Ahern. The suits have alleged serious cases of egregious mistreatment, abuse and neglect. More recently, a U.S District Judge recently ruled in favor of a group of women held at Santa Rita Jail who filed suit charging the Sheriff’s Office with sleep deprivation.Another federal class action lawsuit depicts horrendous conditions for people with mental health issues inside Alameda County jails. Allegations include suicidal people being stripped naked and thrown in cells with nothing more than a hole for a toilet .
Sheriff Ahern has also conducted programs with clear conflicts of interest, including paying $112,000 for commemorative coins for the Urban Shield exercise, to a company that subsequently donated to his election campaign, and receiving vendor fees from gun producer Sig Sauer, followed by a no-bid contract to purchase more than $500,000 of Sig Sauer weapons.
Moreover, Sheriff Ahern has found ways to continue to collaborate with ICE despite California’s sanctuary law. He continues to allow ICE officers into non-public areas of his jails and is publishing the release dates of prisoners online which enables ICE to detain undocumented prisoners upon their release. Further, he endorsed Jeff Sessions as Trump’s selection for Attorney General.
Enough is enough. Allowing Sheriff Ahern to maintain the high-profile lottery commission position normalizes and tacitly endorses his abusive, inhumane policies. Sheriff Ahern’s presence on the Commission undermines the Governor’s admirable commitments to immigrant rights, human rights, and criminal justice. All commissioners appointed by the Governor are extensions of the Governors values. We urge Governor Newsom to continue to support human rights and make the right decision by removing Sheriff Ahern as a representative of the Governor and California on the Lottery Commission.
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