Santa Clara County Supervisors to Create Oversight Committee for Jails

There will soon be more accountability at the beleaguered Santa Clara County jail.

On Thursday, the Board of Supervisors moved to establish an oversight committee to keep an eye on the policies and procedures at the jail. The move comes after multiple arrests and other discipline involving correctional deputies.

The troubles in the county corrections department have been well documented. They include three guards being convicted of murdering a mentally ill inmate as well as escapes by multiple inmates. Sheriff Laurie Smith, who oversees the jails, has been the target of most of the blame.

County leaders felt compelled to act.

"We’ve had 623 recommendations for reform," Supervisor Joe Simitian said. "I think that tells us that we had work to do. We’re doing that work now, but it really shouldn’t have come to this."

A county committee voted to appoint an inspector general of the jails and of the sheriff’s office. That person will report directly to the Board of Supervisors. The idea also is to appoint a civilian oversight committee to add muscle to jail reforms that critics say are badly needed.

"I think it’s important ... having the community directly involved and engaged," Simitian said.

Smith was not at Thursday's meeting, but several of her deputies were on hand. Also in attendance was John Hirokawa, the man who used to run the jails and has expressed interest in becoming sheriff.

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