VIDEO: Murder convictions of Santa Clara County guards signal need for reform in jail system

 

SANTA CLARA COUNTY (KRON) — The convictions of three Santa Clara County jail guards for the murder of a mentally ill inmate is going to keep the spotlight on the need for reform and oversight in the jail system.

The guilty verdicts handed down Thursday are likely to keep the pressure on the jail system to implement more of the suggestions put forth by a blue-ribbon panel that was formed after inmate Michael Tyree was murdered in his cell almost two years ago.

“We’ve been undergoing a broad transformation ensuring transparency, safety, and equality within our facilities,” Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith said.

Smith talked to reporters late Thursday after a jury found deputies Matthew Farris, Jereh Lubrin, and Rafael Rodriguez guilty of murdering Tyree back in Aug. 2015.

Tyree’s murder sparked outrage and a call for reform that led to the formation of a civilian-led commission that recommended sweeping changes including the appointment of an inspector general to oversee the jails after what supervisor Dave Cortese describes as a dark day in county history.

Some of the reforms are already in place such as more surveillance cameras along with more psychiatric and medical personnel and crisis intervention training. Several other correction officers have been fired or disciplined as well.

The murder of Tyree and the murder convictions of the three deputies who killed him is seen as a catalyst for ongoing reform of the jail system.

“In order to accomplish its purposes, a jail must be a place where inmates and correctional staff are treated with respect and dignity,” Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said.

Supervisor Cortese tells KRON4 that the reform commission determined that almost half the inmates in the jail at any given time have some kind of mental health problems and as many as one-third have drug and alcohol issues.

Cortese says the county is searching for a way to deal with those inmates independently and kept away from the general inmate population, perhaps in another facility.

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