Correctional officers at Santa Clara County’s Main Jail are more likely to use force against inmates during the graveyard shift, according to data unveiled Wednesday by the Sheriff’s Office.
Some 43 percent—what jail officials called a “troubling cluster”—of this year’s inmate use-of-force complaints have been lodged against guards working the D-shift, which runs from 6pm to 6am Wednesday through Friday and every other Saturday. Thirty-eight percent of correctional deputies self-reported use-of-force incidents generated from the 70 guards who work the night shift.
“As a result of these trends we are taking specific actions to ensure we are providing our custody staff additional training and support as well as adding an additional layer of supervision and accountability onto the D-Shift,” Sheriff Laurie Smith said in a prepared statement.
Inmates have filed 374 complaints with the county’s Internal Affairs division since 2010, according to records first reported by San Jose Inside. None have been sustained this year or in 2014, two were sustained in 2013, one in 2011 and one in 2010.
Some of newly proposed actions, Smith said, will include adding a layer of supervision fto the overnight shift. The Department of Correction (DOC), the branch of the Sheriff’s Office that oversees the county’s two jails, will transfer Lt. Vic Delacruz and Sgt. Jennifer Bice to oversee the Main Jail’s “D” team and walk floors throughout the shift.
The jail will also keep at the Main Jail nine deputies trained in crisis intervention who would otherwise have been transferred to Elmwood Correctional Facility in Milpitas. Meanwhile, other D-shift deputies who haven’t received the training will go through the 40-hour course, newly appointed Custody Operations Assistant Sheriff Troy Beliveau said.
In addition, Main Jail lieutenants and sergeants will start using an “activity sheet” to document everything that happens during the D-shift. That log will be routinely forwarded to the division commander for review.
Here’s a link to a memo announcing the changes.
“Today’s actions represent well-measured responses to challenges based on data,” Smith said. “We will continue to make the improvements and changes we deem necessary as other assessments are ongoing.”
Jail officials began scrutinizing use-of-force complaints following the beating death of a mentally ill inmate on Aug. 27. Three correctional officers were charged with murder days after Michael Tyree was found lifeless in his one-man cell.
In response to his death, county officials formed a civilian commission to investigate local jails. It also hired consultants and asked for help from federal authorities to evaluate both facilities.
Tyree’s death galvanized long-held concerns that correctional officers are ill equipped to deal with the growing population of mentally ill inmates.Undersheriff John Hirokawa, the county’s jails chief, agreed that his staff needs more training.
“The reality is that our custody facilities … are charged with the care of a much higher proportion of mentally ill inmates,” Hirokawa said Wednesday.
In addition to adding supervisory staff to the night shift, the jail will start to house inmates with psychiatric needs in proximity to one another to “better serve their needs.” Currently, they’re spread throughout the facility.
Clustering these inmates, Hirokawa said, will allow for a quicker delivery of mental health services. It will also allow mental health staff to spend more time with patients instead of walking the entire facility.