San Jose

Santa Clara County Supervisors Form Commission to Address Jail Operations

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a plan Tuesday to form a blue ribbon commission dedicated to examining issues at the jails in response to an inmate's death allegedly at the hands of correctional deputies in August.

The commission will be comprised of up to 25 members including two county supervisors, a retired judge, a mental health expert and a former inmate.

Michael James Tyree, 31, was an inmate suffering from mental illness and was housed at the Santa Clara County Main Jail in San Jose, where correctional deputies allegedly beat him on the night of Aug. 26. He was pronounced dead the next day, prosecutors said.

Jereh Lubrin, 28, Rafael Rodriguez, 27, and Matthew Farris, 27, have been charged with murder in Tyree's death and are on paid administrative leave from the sheriff's office.

"The purpose of the commission to develop recommendations to get from where we are to where we need to be," county Chief Operating Officer Gary Graves said during Tuesday's board meeting.

For the next six months, the commission will evaluate areas within jail operations that need reform and provide an "actionable" set of recommendations to be considered, board president Dave Cortese said.

The group will provide monthly interim reports to the board and its public safety and justice committee, according to Cortese.

The topics the commission will review include inmate intake procedures and classifications; medical and mental intake; the mental health services provided; and safety for inmates, visitors and staff, Cortese said.

Already on the commission are Sheriff Laurie Smith, District Attorney Jeff Rosen and the heads of the county's probation, public defender and behavioral health departments.

Other spots on the commission will be filled through public applications expected to be available by Wednesday through Oct. 16, Cortese said.

The commission would be chosen on Oct. 20 and selected by Cortese.

Representatives from groups including the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, Asian Law Alliance and National Alliance on Mental Illness also asked the board to have a diverse commission that includes numerous organizations representing legal and mental health groups.

Supervisor Simitian called for the commission to include a "designated normal person" who doesn't live or work in the environment being discussed and that each member feel they represent a certain perspective.

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