Concerned community members — in conjunction with community organizations Bonfire, Libro Libre Books to Prisoners, No New Jail Coalition, Families ACT!, PODER (People Organized for the Defense of Equal Rights) and Radio Occupy SB — will host a candlelight vigil for Raymond Herrera, who died while in custody at the Santa Barbara County Jail.

The vigil will start at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the County Jail, 4436 Calle Real in Santa Barbara.

Family, friends, and the community will gather for a candlelight vigil to mourn the loss of Herrera, a father who died while in custody on June 15 under the supervision of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department.

The peaceful vigil will be held in memory of Herrera and all the other inmates who have tragically died while in jail or endured some form of abuse.

Herrera was a graduate of Lompoc High School who worked in commercial and residential painting. He was well liked in the community, and anyone who had the pleasure of knowing him will remember him for his laugh and his sense of humor, which always brought happiness to others.

He was serving a short, 10-day sentence for a minor violation. Jail staff was aware of Herrera’s medical condition yet they refused to respond to his pleas for help. After he collapsed and cellmates called for help, the officers handcuffed Herrera and dragged him out of his cell. Herrera died on the seventh day of his sentence.

On the morning of June 15, Herrera was pronounced dead shortly after he was found unresponsive and not breathing by jail deputies in his cell. Medical response teams arrived, but all attempts to revive him were unsuccessful.

Herrera was a low-level, nonviolent offender who could have avoided jail time under the terms of Proposition 47, a measure signed into law in California to ease prison overcrowding by reclassifying nonviolent felons to misdemeanor status. Unfortunately, he was among the 74 percent of inmates who are pretrial detainees held in County Jail because they cannot afford to post bail.

The community is deeply concerned about the circumstances that led to Herrera’s death. Questions have been raised regarding the possibility that his death was due to improper medical treatment by Corizon. In 1995, Santa Barbara County contracted with Corizon, a for-profit correctional health-care provider that privatized medical care for the County Jail and cost jobs for county local health practitioners.

Corizon’s contract expired June 30 and is up for renewal in Santa Barbara County. The county Board of Supervisors has ignored pleas from community members to properly oversee the functions at County Jail from overworked officers, improper medical care, mismanaging of funds, to inaccurate projections regarding the need and cost of the proposed North County Jail. It is time the Board of Supervisors takes responsibility for the residents they are elected to represent!

The corruption and abuse inside the Santa Barbara County Jail can no longer be ignored. If you or anyone you know has been a victim, please call our hotline at 805.743.3723. All calls are confidential.

Please join us for this memorial vigil as we gather in solidarity with the Herrera family and pay our respects to all inmates who have tragically died while incarcerated.