‘Frustrated' Sheriff Purchases Security Cameras for Santa Clara County Main Jail

Santa Clara County officials had told the sheriff it would take two years and $20 million to add to the jail's existing camera system.

Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith late Wednesday helped crews install new security cameras inside the county's main jail.

Smith has been asking for more cameras at the jail since the August beating death of an inmate, which was not caught on surveillance video. County officials told the sheriff it would take two years and $20 million to add to the existing system.

"I was frustrated. It's been going on for six months and it would be two years before (getting the cameras) installed," Smith said. "We knew we needed an interim system."

The sheriff in response asked IT workers what cameras to buy and went shopping at Costco. Smith used her own credit card to pay $761 for a 12-camera system.

County workers spent Wednesday night installing the cameras in Module 4A, with inmate privacy in mind. The sheriff said cameras will not be pointed at cells and do not record audio.

The system will be able to store video for 30 days and for the first time record what is happening inside inmate modules.

"If there is a complaint against deputies we can look at tape," Smith said. "If (there is an) assault on staff we can use it as evidence. It's good for everyone."

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