EXCLUSIVE: Santa Clara correctional chief discusses arrest of 3 deputies

David Louie Image
Saturday, September 5, 2015
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In an exclusive interview, Santa Clara Undersheriff John Hirokawa talks about the arrest of three of his correctional deputies.

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- Changes are coming to the Santa Clara County Jail following the death of an inmate allegedly at the hands of three guards, according to deputies. Also in direct response, protesters demanded more rights for inmates, as they marched outside the Santa Clara County Main Jail.

Three guards -- Matthew Farris, Jereh Lubrin and Rafael Rodriguez -- were arrested this week for murder in the beating death of Michael Tyree.

The chief of corrections in charge of Santa Clara County jails, Undersheriff John Hirokawa, spoke to ABC7 News in an exclusive interview and said past reports of inmate abuse are going to be re-examined.

RAW VIDEO: Santa Clara Co. correctional chief addresses 3 deputies arrested

In addition, Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith says she plans to add and expand cameras in the jails in order to protect inmates, visitors and correctional staff.

Hirokawa said he takes personal responsibility for what has happened. With the arrest of three of his correctional deputies, accused of beating and killing Tyree, he is evaluating his leadership that allowed this to happen.

"Were we doing enough to discourage? Were we holding people accountable? Those are all things I'm self-examining in regards to what I was doing and how I was scrutinizing my staff," Hirokawa said.

VIDEO: Inmate allegedly killed by Santa Clara County deputies died of blunt force trauma

Friday, about 100 protestors gathered outside the main jail, some of them complaining about abuses where no action was taken.

William Mendoza's son was an inmate last year. He spoke at the rally and told ABC7 News, "They handcuffed him. They beat him. His head was split open. He was taken to Valley Medical."

The undersheriff says reports like that will now get a new look to help build the public's trust.

"We are actually going back and re-examining some of the other cases that we had, but we do have quite a few that we had been investigating for the past several months," Hirokawa said.

However, the tougher challenge will be how better to handle inmates with mental illness. Hirokawa said his staff is not trained to deal with them.

Jennifer Hultgren is a deputy public defender. She said, "We should not be housing them in the jail. That is absolutely the worst way to take care of somebody that's mentally ill, and the correctional officers that are here are not properly trained on how to deal with the mentally ill."

County Supervisor Cindy Chavez says that issue is being addressed as the county tries to secure funding for a new jail and to tailor better programs with nonprofit agencies.

VIDEO: Rally held demanding changes at Santa Clara County jail after inmate's death