Santa Clara Co. officials call for review of jail facilities, operations after inmate allegedly killed by deputies

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Friday, September 11, 2015
Santa Clara Co. officials call for review of jail after inmate death
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The Santa Clara County sheriff and supervisors are calling for the creation of a special commission to look into how the jail is run after an inmate was allegedly beaten to death by three guards.

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- The Santa Clara County sheriff and supervisors are calling for the creation of a special commission to look into how the jail is run. This comes after a 31-year-old inmate was beaten to death two weeks ago, allegedly by three guards who are now facing charges.

The cloak of secrecy has been lifted. The county wants a "blue ribbon" public commission and a federal agency to take a hard look at what needs to be done to make the jail safer for inmates, especially the mentally ill. The number of mentally ill in the jails is staggering.

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Inmate describes night Michael Tyree died

Michael Tyree was beaten to death on a cell block that doesn't have bars. They have wooden doors with small windows to provide inmates some privacy. But that privacy may have prevented others from witnessing what happened to the 31-year-old.

County officials want to create a blue ribbon commission to look at what improvements can be made in operations to prevent a repeat tragedy.

"We're asking this commission to conduct its work quickly so we can begin to implement reforms at a rapid pace," said Board of Supervisors President Dave Cortese.

A major focus will be on how to deal with the mentally ill, a fast-growing percentage of the county's 3,600 inmates.

"Of that, about 48 percent of that inmate population, men and women, suffer from some type of mental health issue that has been diagnosed by our custody health staff," said Santa Clara County Department of Corrections Chief John Hirokawa.

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Santa Clara correctional chief discusses arrest of 3 deputies

Sheriff Laurie Smith says recruits in an academy class underway now will get more crisis intervention training, or CIT, which includes dealing with the mentally ill.

"We're adding to that academy," she said. "That'll mean that they'll have an additional 40 hours of CIT training. So all correctional staff have received some mental health training, but now we're going to be putting in that 40 hour block into the correctional academy."

Supervisor Cindy Chavez says the county is also seeking more input from the public.

"We're asking for the establishment of an anonymous hotline," she said. "And that way, people can call in and make, whether it's accusations or they want to make recommendations, they can do that is very safe manner."

Approval of the blue ribbon commission goes to the supervisors next week.

Tyree was a mentally ill inmate being held on drug and theft charges at the county's Main Jail in San Jose, where he was pronounced dead on Aug. 27 after he was allegedly assaulted by correctional deputies Jereh Lubrin, 28, Rafael Rodriguez, 27, and Matthew Farris, 27.

On Tuesday, the deputies were each arraigned on a murder charge for Tyree's death along with an assault under the color of authority charge for an alleged attack on another inmate identified as Juan Villa.

Bay City News contributed to this report.