Sheriff Smith Continues Damage Control as Jail Scandals Stack Up

Inmates are dying, jail guards are breaking laws and sending racist texts, and worse, some may even be raping the men and women behind bars.

Standardized Tests, Funding Ties Put Undue Pressure on Teachers

An Atlanta judge last week sentenced eight public school teachers, principals and administrators to jail for conspiring to inflate students’ state test scores. The sentencing was a tragic end to the Atlanta testing scandals that began in 2009.

DA: Shirakawa Demanded Favors from Jail, Kept Maps to Political Opponents’ Homes

Ex-county supervisor George Shirakawa Jr. attempted to pull strings from jail last year, according to new court filings from his political mail fraud trial. And in what could become a showdown over the use of the Fifth Amendment, the District Attorney’s office plans to offer former San Jose Councilman Xavier Campos immunity in exchange for his testimony.

Former SJPD Police Chief Leads on Reforming State Drug Laws

A new ballot initiative seeks to address the unduly harsh punishments tens of thousands of Californians face for nonviolent offenses. The proposal, sponsored by former San Jose Police Chief Bill Lansdowne, would reduce penalties for certain low-level drug and petty theft crimes.

County Considers Wage-Theft Ordinance

Santa Clara County will consider an ordinance to punish employers for wage theft, a charge that would disqualify businesses from public contracts and give workers a formal recourse to lodge complaints against stingy bosses. The motion going before the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday would direct the county to come up with a draft ordinance over the coming months. Supervisor Dave Cortese brought forward the idea, citing a 2008 study by the National Employment Law Project that says two-thirds of the 4,387 low-wage workers polled in New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago were denied full compensation.

County Combines Addiction Treatment, Mental Health Departments

Given that clientele often overlaps, Santa Clara County will integrate its departments of Drug and Alcohol Services and Mental Health. Also, on the agenda for Tuesday’s county Board of Supervisors meeting: a new name for the South County Airport, making campaign disclosure forms available online and funding an anti-terrorism law enforcement communications network.

Grand Jury Reports Dominate Board of Supervisors’ Next Meeting

The people in charge of providing financial and protective services for Santa Clara County residents run a department lacking structure and accountability, according to a just-released Civil Grand Jury audit that goes before the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. Other items on the board agenda include grand jury reviews for health inspections of food trucks and farmers markets, and a review of Juvenile Hall.

County Sheriff’s Office Scraps Proposal to Limit Jail Mail to Postcards

Santa Clara County inmates will continue receiving mail after jail officials abandoned a contentious plan to limit correspondence to just postcards. Jail chief John Hirokawa originally brought up the idea earlier this summer in hopes of limiting the amount of drugs smuggled in through envelopes or postage stamps. But the community put up a fight, saying the mail restriction could dry up prisoners’ ties with friends, family and life outside their cell. The county jail and Elmwood Correctional Facility receive about 200,000 pieces of mail a year. If the postcard-only policy passed, the county would have become the first in Northern California to enact such a ban and one of a few-dozen in the nation.