SANTA CLARA COUNTY (KRON) — As KRON reported earlier this year, a video surveillance system was installed at the Santa Clara county jail after the beating death of an inmate, allegedly at the hands of jail guards.
The sheriff’s office finished installing 270 cameras at the Main Jail North facility at the corner of West Hedding and San Pedro streets last week, Assistant Sheriff Carl Neusel said during a news conference Monday afternoon at a fifth floor dormitory.
On Monday, the sheriff’s department provided a progress report on the system. In a rare look inside the main jail, KRON can see where there are now 16 video cameras trained on all the common areas here.
Last week, those cameras captured various images that purportedly show inmates planning and carrying out an attack on a fellow inmate, who was stabbed in the head with a home-made knife.
The cameras also showed where other inmates later hid the knife and led to formal charges being filed. In two other recent incidents, video from the cameras is said to have cleared guards falsely accused of mistreating inmates.
The video also indicated numerous toilet flushes soon after the attack. When detectives searched the cell and found the 6-inch shank in the toilet, according to Neusel.
The victimized inmate was struck in the head multiple times, but his injuries weren’t considered life-threatening, according to Neusel.
The video led to charges of filing a false police report in that case. There are some 270 cameras deployed around the jail.
The second incident happened about a month ago when an inmate claimed a deputy inappropriately touched him, but surveillance video showed the physical contact during a pet search wasn’t sexual and fell within department policy, Neusel said.
Several months ago, an inmate alleged he was assaulted by a group of deputies at the 5A pod, where today’s news conference took place, but video showed him challenging the jail guards who could only use pepper spray to control him, according to Neusel.
The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office filed charges against the inmates in the two latter cases for making a false police report, according to Neusel.
No video was made available in these cases, but deputies are quick to point out that they too are under constant surveillance.
The cameras capture footage 24/7 in inmate common spaces and dormitories and the officers’ stations, but not in private areas such as showers and individual cells, Neusel said.
The cameras in all cost $20,000, but lack sound, can only store videos for five to seven days and take two hours to download 10 minutes of footage, according to Neusel.
Inmate behavior hasn’t changed since the cameras were installed, but the sheriff’s office has received fewer inmate grievances or reports against jail employees to the internal affairs unit, Neusel said.
The sheriff’s office has seen more “sophisticated” inmates at the jails since the 2011 passage of Assembly Bill 109, which moved offenders serving time for low-level crimes from state prisons to county jails, Neusel
The county is working to purchase a more “robust” video surveillance system for the jail that may be in place by 2018, according to Neusel.
No cameras are installed at the neighboring Main Jail South facility, an older jail building built more than 50 years ago, that the county plans to demolish for a new site that will be called Main Jail East, Neusel said.
Installing cameras at Main Jail South, a heavily fortified building, would be time-consuming and expensive, according to Neusel.
Bay City News contributed to this report.