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Another inmate dies after medical emergency at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin

Activist groups decry fourth jail death so far in Sheriff Yesenia Sanchez's short tenure in 2023
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An inmate died at an area hospital two days after experiencing a medical emergency at Santa Rita Jail late last month, marking the fourth inmate death thus far in 2023 and prompting critical remarks from local activist groups who've been pushing to improve health and safety conditions at the county jail in Dublin.

Candice "Cody" Vanburen, 33, was booked into Santa Rita Jail around 1:20 p.m. Feb. 27 as a "timeserver" from Valley State Prison-Chowchilla on post-release community supervision, according to Lt. Tya Modeste of the Alameda County Sheriff's Office.

"During the intake medical screening by Wellpath custodial staff, Vanburen admitted to using a controlled substance before arriving at SRJ. Despite Vanburen's admitted drug use, there was no cause for concern found during the medical and mental health intake process," Modeste said.

After being assigned to a cell as a solo occupant, Vanburen would be found breathing but unresponsive in bed during a wellness check by a jail deputy at 5:20 a.m. Feb. 28, according to Modeste.

Wellpath custodial staff entered emergency medical services protocol and administered five doses of Narcan intranasally and three doses intramuscularly, according to Modeste. Vanburen was transported by paramedics to Stanford Health Care Tri-Valley hospital in Pleasanton and later transferred to Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley.

Vanburen was ultimately pronounced dead at Eden hospital at 4:09 p.m. on March 1, according to the lieutenant. Vanburen's next-of-kin was notified and granted visitation.

The circumstances of Vanburen's death remain under investigation, including the cause of death, by the county coroner's bureau. The Alameda County District Attorney's Office will be notified of the final findings, and the report will be sent to the California Attorney General's Office, according to Modeste.

Vanburen's death is the fourth of a Santa Rita inmate since Jan. 17. Stephen Lofton, 39, died in a suspected suicide on Jan. 17; Charles Johnson, 45, died at the Stanford hospital in Pleasanton on Feb. 4 after a medical emergency at the jail two days earlier; and Elizabeth Laurel, 39, died after being found unresponsive in her cell on Feb. 13, according to the sheriff's office.

A coalition of civil rights organizations in the county, led by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, issued a somber yet scathing statement in reaction to news of Vanburen's death.

"We are heartbroken and enraged to hear of yet another death related to Santa Rita Jail, the deadliest place in Alameda County," they said. "For years, advocates have called out the level of abuse, neglect, death, and cruel punishment inside Santa Rita Jail. We have stood alongside families who have lost loved ones at the hands of the Alameda County Sheriff's Office and called for transparency, diversion, and accountability -- yet these calls have been met with inaction."

"Alameda County voters hoped the election of Sheriff Yesenia Sanchez would bring meaningful change to SRJ, but the death of Cody and three others in six weeks alone tells us that nothing has changed," they added. "The death of Cody is particularly heartwrenching, as he was coming home and on his way out of Alameda County's murderous carceral system. Enough is enough."


About the Author: Jeremy Walsh

Jeremy, a Benicia native and American University alum, joined Embarcadero Media in November 2013. After serving as associate editor for the Pleasanton Weekly and, he was promoted to editor of the East Bay Division in February 2017.
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