Santa Clara County

Fight Breaks Out at Santa Clara County Jail, Again

The latest brawl started in the south section of a dorm area, which is considered a medium security area.

Another fight between inmates broke out at the Santa Clara County Main Jail Tuesday, prompting a lockdown of the San Jose facility.

The latest brawl started before 8:30 a.m. in the south section of a dorm area, which is considered a medium security area.

"They co-mingle 24 hours a day, seven days a week," Santa Clara County Sheriff's Sgt. James Jensen said. "This is not a rare occasion. Last year we have over 225 fights just in the main jail, and this year we are already up to 78.

The sheriff's office said two inmates started fighting and about eight others got involved. One of the initial combatants went to the hospital for stitches and is reportedly back in custody. The jail lockdown was lifted after about an hour.

Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors President Dave Cortese, who helped start the jail's Blue Ribbon Commission, said Tuesday's fight highlights the need for more cameras and a new jail facility.

"We need to separate people appropriately," Cortese said. "We need to have appropriate dorms. We need to have appropriate release facilities."

The jail has been under intense scrutiny for months. Three jail deputies were charged with murder after inmate Michael Tyree was beaten to death in August.

And on March 3, a brawl involving at least 20 inmates prompted a temporary lockdown of the Santa Clara County Jail.

At least part of the fight was captured on surveillance video that were installed the night before with cameras that Sheriff Laurie Smith bought with her own money at Costco, leading some critics to question whether that fight was staged.

Legal analyst Steven Clark said each fight increases the scrutiny.

"These fights are going to be analyzed to see whether there is something systemic about how the jail is run that is allowing them to occur," Clark said.

The jail commission will present its finding on that question to supervisors in a week.

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