A California jail is facing harsh criticism after a woman was found dead a few hours after her release.
On July 28, Jessica St. Louis was found dead at a BART station in Dublin, California, at 5:30 a.m., four hours after she was released from Santa Rita Jail. Investigators have ruled out foul play and believe she died from a drug overdose, according to KTVU.
St. Louis was jailed for 11 days because of arrest warrants related to minor crimes.
Critics of the jail believe the time of St. Louis' release factored into her death. She was released at 1:30 a.m.
The 26-year-old’s death has shined a light on potential consequences of around-the-clock releases. Jessica Nowlan, executive director of the Young Women's Freedom Center, released a statement condemning the jail. Nowlan and the Freedom Center work as advocates for incarcerated and impoverished women.
"It was a death sentence to release Jessica in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere," Nowlan wrote. “To send vulnerable system-involved women and girls into the streets at night, without access to support or even public transportation, is an act of violence."
St. Louis’ family also released a statement calling for a ban of late-night releases.
"What has happened to her is tragic, and there are many questions that we want to be answered. There is no reason why Jessica should have been released in the middle of the night, alone and without any supportive services,” the family's statement read.
"While there is no way to bring Jessica back, we believe this should never happen to any other woman being released from a correctional facility again."
Police spokesman Sergeant Ray Kelly rebutted the criticism, arguing that things aren't that simple.
"If we shut down release operations for continuous periods of time, we would be holding people over their incarceration times and then we'd get sued because it would be illegal detentions of people," Kelly told ABC7. Santa Rita processes about 100 releases a day.
State Senator Nancy Skinner (D) announced plans to introduce legislation to prevent other women from meeting the same fate, reports SF Weekly.
“Tragically, my constituent Jessica St. Louis was taken from us far too soon,” Skinner said. “Releasing a woman in the dead of the night under these circumstances is a recipe for tragedy. People need to be released at a reasonable hour and be given basic support to ensure they can enter our community safely and successfully. I’m pleased to keep partnering with the Young Women’s Freedom Center to craft a bill that ensures safe releases from jail by limiting releases during non-daytime hours and ensuring coordination with supportive services and transportation.”
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