Recognized as one of the most technologically innovative jails in the world, the Santa Rita Jail is the third largest detention facility in California and the fifth largest in the country. Operated by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, this facility accommodates up to 4,000 inmates which is why it is sometimes referred to as a “mega jail”.
(Note that the Glenn Dyer Jail in Alameda County has closed and much of the inmate population transferred to the Santa Rita facility)
Individuals who are arrested in Alameda County are taken to the Santa Rita Jail or to the Glenn E. Dyer Detention Facility, depending on
- the gender of the arrestee (women are exclusively housed at Santa Rita),
- which facility is closer to the arrest location (if the arrestee is a male),
- the arrestee’s medical needs (severe medical needs are handled at Santa Rita), and
- the availability of bed space.
The Santa Rita Jail
- temporarily houses arrestees until they
- post bail,
- are released on their own recognizance (known as an O.R. release),
- appear for their arraignment, or
- appear for trial, and
- houses convicted defendants who have been sentenced to incarceration in a county jail.
In this article, our Oakland criminal defense attorneys1 will explain the following:
- 1. Procedures on How to Post Bail for an Inmate at the Santa Rita Jail
- 2. How to Get Inmate Information
- 3. How to Contact an Inmate at the Santa Rita Jail
- 4. Visiting Hours and Policies
- 4.1. Rules and restrictions
- 5. Rules and Regulations Regarding Mail Correspondence at the Santa Rita Jail
- 6. How to Put “Money on the Books”
- 7. Inmate Services
- 8. The Procedures on “Return of Property” for the Santa Rita Jail
- 9. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Work Alternative Program (SWAP)
If, after reading this article, you would like more information, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.
After an inmate has been booked into the Santa Rita Jail, his/her bail is set by the Alameda County Bail Schedule and is determined based on the crime(s) for which he/she was arrested.
“Bail” is the amount of money that a defendant (or typically someone on his/her behalf) must pay in order to be released from jail. It is intended to assure the arresting agency and court that the defendant will appear in court as expected.
If the defendant attends all of his/her court appearances, the bail will be returned at the end of the case. If the defendant does not attend all of his/her court appearances, he/she forfeits that money to the court.
The Santa Rita Jail accepts three types of bail: cash bail, cashier’s checks and bail bonds (all of which are discussed in detail in our article on How to Post Bail in California). And if you choose to post bail for an inmate, you may do so directly at the Jail lobby 24 hours a day / 7 days a week.
When you pay or “post” cash bail, you pay the full bail amount. Once you post cash bail, the inmate is released pending his/her arraignment. If the inmate attends his/her court appearances, the bail will be returned following the conclusion of the criminal case (minus a small administrative fee). If the inmate does not attend those appearances, he/she forfeits your money to the court.
Similar to cash bail, if you opt to use a cashier’s check, you must post the entire bail amount. The Santa Rita Jail only accepts certified bank-drawn cashier’s checks that are payable to the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office. Cashier’s checks should list the booking number, personal file number and full legal name of the inmate.
And because the funds must be verified before the jail will release an inmate, the inmate’s release may take several hours or even a few days, depending on the time of day and whether the bail is posted on a weekend.
Bail bonds are the most common way to post bail, as they only require you to pay a nonrefundable maximum of 10% of the total bond. You obtain a bail bond from a bail bondsman (aka a bail agent). If the defendant makes all of his/her court appearances, you pay nothing on top of the 10%, but you do not get that 10% back…it is the bondsman’s nonrefundable fee. If the inmate doesn’t make those appearances, you will be liable for repaying the entire bail amount to the agent.
Local bail bondsmen advertise via the Internet and in the phone book. Make sure you verify the bondsman’s license and retain copies of any documents for your records.
∗NOTE: After you post bail for an inmate at the Santa Rita Jail, you should immediately consult with one of our skilled Oakland criminal defense attorneys who can schedule a bail hearing to argue that the bail should be reduced or eliminated. One of our experienced local attorneys can also help devise the most effective legal defense to help your loved one fight his/her case.
If you wish to obtain jail information about an inmate incarcerated at the Santa Rita Jail, you may call the Jail at (925) 551-6500 anytime of the day or night. You may also access inmate information online via the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department inmate information website.
You must provide the inmate’s full name and date of birth or his/her personal file number in order to ensure that you are receiving accurate information.
If you would like case information on an inmate, such as an upcoming date for his/her
you may visit the Alameda County case information website.
Inmates at the Santa Rita Jail are allowed to make one free outgoing phone call at the time of booking. Thereafter, calls must be made on a collect basis or placed with a pre-paid calling account. Inmates are not allowed to receive incoming calls.
If you wish to set up a pre-paid calling account for an inmate, you may do so online via Global Tel∗ Link, or you can call Global Tel at (800) 483-8314. Pre-paid credit is available in increments of $25 and $50. In order to make sure that the correct inmate receives the credit, be sure to specify the inmate’s booking number and full name.
If you have a loved one in the Santa Rita Jail, you may want to contact your local telephone carrier to make sure that Global Tel∗Link and collect calls are not blocked on your telephone plan.
The good news is that contact with inmates at the Jail is not limited to phone calls. You can also visit an inmate in person or correspond via mail. These options are discussed in the next two sections.
As of April 2022, the Sheriff’s office has resumed in person visitation at 50% capacity. COVID-19 protocols, such as the wearing of face masks and social distancing, are in place for inmate and visitor safety.
Please ensure that you can arrive early enough to give yourself plenty of time to have your temperature checked, check in with lobby staff, and be screened by the visiting deputies. There is a one-hour “decontamination cool down period” between visits. Late entry is not be permitted.
The Santa Rita Jail is located at
5325 Broder Boulevard
Dublin, CA 94568
Inmates at the Santa Rita Jail are permitted to have one 30-minute visit each visiting day. Only 2 visitors will be allowed per booth. Children under 12 years old shall be accompanied by their parent or guardian at all times. Groups of 4-6 visitors must remain in the public visiting corridor area, but are allowed to rotate visitors during their visiting session.
Video Visits are available from home on compatible electronic devices or through the Santa Rita Jail lobby kiosks. Visitors may schedule a video visit appointment by internet 24 hours a day.
Visiting hours at the Santa Rita Jail are held Wednesday through Sunday. The exact days and times vary, depending on the unit in which the inmate is housed. Visits must be arranged ahead of time and may be scheduled up to three (3) days in advance. No same day visits will be permitted.
To schedule a visit you may either
- call 925-551-6500
- complete an online reservation request on the Jail’s visitor’s website.
Attorneys and members of the clergy are not bound by these visiting hours. However, they, too must call ahead to schedule their visits.
All visitors must present a valid government issued photo I.D. card, such as
- a California driver’s license,
- a California identification card,
- a U.S. Passport,
- an alien registration card, or
- a U.S. military card.
All visitors are subject to a search of their person and property. And any visitor who
- has been detained in an Alameda County Jail within the last six (6) months, or
- was convicted of a felony and served time in the California state prison
will only be allowed to visit an inmate with prior approval from the Santa Rita Jail’s Commanding Officer.
Visitors are not permitted to bring anything to the inmates. In addition, visitors are not allowed to bring/wear any of the following into the facility:
- revealing, sexually provocative clothing or clothing with images or writing that relate to sex, drugs, violence or gangs,
- food or drinks,
- alcohol, drugs or any other illegal substances,
- illegal weapons or other objects that can be used to cause injury to another person,
- purses, briefcases, wallets, keys, cameras, cell phones, pagers, tape recorders, baby strollers/carriers, etc.
- eat, drink or smoke on the premises,
- are intoxicated or under the influence of any controlled substance,
- loiter in the facility,
- leave children unattended,
- attempt to have physical contact or exchange any items with an inmate, and/or
- engage in loud conversations, boisterous laughter or any disruptive behavior
will be evicted from the premises and…depending on the exact violation…could even be arrested on the spot. And the staff at the Santa Rita Jail reserves the right to deny entry to anyone who they believe poses a safety threat to the staff or inmates at the facility.
Mail is distributed to inmates Monday through Friday, excluding holidays. If you wish to send mail to an inmate at the Santa Rita Jail, send it to
The Santa Rita Jail
[Inmate’s name and personal file number]
5325 Broder Boulevard
Dublin, CA 94568
The Jail staff will open and inspect all general mail outside the presence of the inmate. If the inmate doesn’t consent to this process, mail will simply be returned, marked “refused”.
Be sure to include your name and a return address on the outside of the envelope. If you fail to do so, your mail will not be delivered to the inmate. Similarly, mail larger than 8″ x 14″ will be returned to the sender.
Any sexually explicit drawings on the envelope will cause the mail to be returned to the sender. However, sexually explicit material that is mailed inside an envelope will be delivered to an inmate, provided that it is not defined as “obscene” under Penal Code 311 PC.
Paperback books, newspapers and magazines are the only packages that inmates may receive…and that is only if they are mailed directly from the publishing company. No more than 6 of these items may be received at any given time.
The only types of mail that will be given to inmates are photos (not Polaroid photos) and letters – any stamps, paperclips, stickers, glue, etc. will not be accepted.
If you wish to mail an inmate money for his account (discussed below in the next section), the Santa Rita Jail accepts
- money orders made payable to:The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office
c/o Inmate’s name and personal file number, and
- Western Union Quick Collect that is addressed as follows:The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office
Inmate’s last name, first name and personal file number
Inmates at the Santa Rita Jail are allowed to have access to money to make purchases at the Jail’s commissary. Such purchases may include snacks, drinks, medicine, cosmetics and hygiene items.
If you wish to deposit money into an inmate’s account…a process known as putting money “on the books”…you may deposit either cash or a money order for the exact amount you wish to deposit. The Jail will not provide change, nor will it accept any other forms of payment.
If you want to deposit cash, you must do so in person. Money orders may be delivered in-person or via mail. You may make an in-person deposit 24 hours a day / 7 days a week. In order to place money in an inmate’s account, you will be required to provide identification and must know the inmate’s name and personal file number.
If you are mailing a money order, make it payable to
The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office
c/o Inmate’s name and personal file number.
And make sure you comply with the other rules regarding mail correspondence discussed above under Section 5. Rules and Regulations Regarding Mail Correspondence at the Santa Rita Jail.Inmates who were incarcerated in this facility within the last six months may not deposit money into another inmate’s account.
The Santa Rita Jail offers a variety of services to its inmates. Examples of some of these services include:
- on-site medical and mental health services,
- residential substance abuse treatment for men and women, such as narcotics anonymous “N.A.” and alcoholics anonymous “A.A.”),
- educational services (such as testing to help inmates obtain their high school equivalency diplomas “GED” and computer training),
- religious services and counseling,
- recreation activities, and
- a library that includes free access to current magazines, newspapers and books.
When an inmate is booked into the Santa Rita Jail, his/her belongings are collected and stored. This property is returned to the inmate once he/she is released. Alternatively, an inmate can fill out a property release form designating another person to claim that property.
If you have been asked by an inmate to pick up his/her property, you must bring a valid photo I.D. You should also call (925) 551-6500 ahead of time to make sure the property is ready for you to pick up. Once an inmate requests a release of property, it can take up to seven (7) days for the request to get processed.
Once the property is available for pick-up, you may claim it 24 hours a day / 7 days a week in the Jail lobby.
If the inmate had a car impounded at the time of his/her arrest, and you are trying to have that car released, you must contact the arresting agency to determine (1) if and when the vehicle may be released, and (2) what documentation you will need to secure that release.
Car keys may be picked up in the Jail lobby. Again, you should call (925) 551-6500 ahead of time to make sure the keys are ready for pick-up.
If you are dropping off courtroom clothing for an inmate, you may do so at the Jail lobby within 72 hours of a
- preliminary hearing,
- jury trial, or
You may only drop off 1 set of clothing, and it must be exchanged on a one-for-one basis with any clothing the inmate already has stored in the property department.
If you wish to drop off property such as prescription glasses, contact lens solution or dentures, you may bring them to the Jail lobby in a sealed package. However, the Santa Rita Jail provides all medications through Prison Health Services, so some items may not be accepted from visitors.
Prior to dropping off property, you may want to first contact Prison Health Services at (925) 551-6700 to confirm that it will be accepted.
In lieu of a jail sentence, certain defendants may be eligible to participate in the Alameda Sheriff’s Work Alternative Program (SWAP). This program is available to those defendants who
- qualify as a “low-risk” offender (based on the crime for which the defendant was convicted and his/her criminal history),
- were referred by the sentencing judge, and
- were sentenced to less than 30 days in jail.
SWAP allows qualifying defendants to work 8-10 hours a day in lieu of one day of confinement. There is a nonrefundable fee of $65 to apply to this program. There is also an additional fee of $12 per day that you participate in this program.
This is simply one reason why it is critical for a defendant to consult with an experienced local criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after an arrest. An attorney who is knowledgeable with respect to the alternative sentencing programs that are offered by local law enforcement agencies is the key to securing this type of sentence…and to avoiding incarceration.
Call us for help…
If you or loved one is charged with a crime and you are looking to hire an attorney for representation, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We can provide a free consultation in office or by phone.
1Our Oakland criminal defense attorneys’ offices are located at 2010 Crow Canyon Place, Suite 100, San Ramon, CA 94583. Our San Francisco Bay area lawyers also have local law offices in San Francisco and San Jose and service the entire Northern California region which includes (but is not limited to) Santa Clara, Contra Costra and Alameda Counties.