The San Francisco Sheriff's Department on Thursday said an investigation into allegations of abuse at the hands of deputies at San Francisco jails is currently underway.
In a letter to Public Defender Jeff Adachi, dated Jan. 31, San Francisco Sheriff Vicki Hennessy responds to Adachi's formal complaint regarding what he says are "deplorable conditions at the San Francisco jail and ongoing and repeated misconduct by SFSD deputies."
According to Hennessy, she first learned about recent allegations of abuse happening at both Jail #2, located at 425 Seventh St., and Jail #5, located at 1 Moreland Drive in San Bruno, on Dec. 2 through both Adachi and internal sources.
"I take these allegations seriously. I immediately identified this as a priority and launched a full investigation that same day, directing Internal Affairs employees to interview all complainants and witnesses," she said in the letter.
"I have taken steps to ensure a thorough investigation and fair treatment of complainants and witnesses. Our department will not pre-judge the outcome of this investigation until we have concluded our examination and review of the facts," she said. "We have made some personnel moves as well as assigned additional supervisory support to ensure the integrity of this investigation. I also am reviewing our inmate living area search policies to ensure best practices."
Hennessy also disagreed with Adachi's use of the word "deplorable" to describe jail conditions, but noted that Jail #4, located at the Hall of Justice at 850 Bryant St., is "an embarrassment" because of its "outdated correctional design."
"As Sheriff, I continue to work everyday to ensure that the men and women in our facilities are housed safely and humanely. Additionally, I work to mitigate these issues to the greatest degree possible while planning for exiting the Hall of Justice in the future."
While the sheriff's investigation is underway, Supervisor Shamann Walton's office confirmed that a hearing will be held on March 14 to discuss how the sheriff's department handles claims of abuse at the hands of deputies.
Natalie Gee, an aide for Walton, said Hennessy, Adachi and District Attorney George Gascon have confirmed they will attend the hearing. Walton's office is currently waiting to hear back from the Department of Police Accountability.
Earlier this month, Gascon's office dropped charges against a former and two current San Francisco sheriff's deputies linked to a 2015 jailhouse "fight club" in which inmates were allegedly forced to fight each other at Jail #4.
In that case, former Deputy Scott Neu and current deputies Eugene Jones and Clifford Chiba faced several charges. The charges, however, were dropped earlier this month when it was revealed that the sheriff's department in 2015 conducted its own criminal investigation into the deputies, unbeknownst to Gascon's Office, and used immunized statements from the deputies, which is unlawful.
The sheriff's investigators then later moved to destroy evidence showing the statements were taken illegally, leading to the dropped charges.
Earlier this week, Adachi said the abuse was continuing at the jails, with inmates alleging that they routinely suffer beatings and illegal strip searches at the hands of deputies.