NBC Bay Area has obtained two internal e-mails from the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office that could shed new light on what might have triggered a brawl involving inmates inside the Santa Clara County Main Jail.
The new documents are expected to be the first item of business at Saturday's Blue Ribbon Commission Meeting. At least one member of the commission says it plans to discuss what is an abrupt and unexplained change in jail policy, and questions if that change brought racial tensions to a boiling point.
On March 3, a near-riot broke out at the Santa Clara County Main Jail. Documents obtained by NBC Bay Area show six days before that fight a memo was sent to the staff ordering them to abandon a safety policy enacted in 2014.
The policy limited the amount of time mixed-race inmates could spend with each other.
Five days later Sheriff Laurie Smith went shopping at Costco and bought cameras with her own credit card that were then installed in the jail. The fight broke out at the jail the following day.
Rick Callender with the NAACP and the jail commission says the documents are sure to raise a lot of questions.
"This doesn't look good. Very obviously there was a release of the memo that said that clearly there was problems with African and Latino inmates in jails," Callender said. "After that there was a memo that said let's release them all out together and did not give a reason to withdraw the other policies that were there."
The Sheriff's Office released the following statement to NBC Bay Area:
"This was not an abrupt change of policy. We were advised by experts to allow inmates more program time out of their cell, and we have been doing that throughout the jail. Out of the 2014 email only about 5 of the approximately 60 inmates are still in there, and they were not the main suspects or victims."