Santa Clara County

Three Deputies Injured in Fight With Drunken Inmates Accused of Fermenting Fruit, Making Alcohol in Their Cells

Three deputies were injured Monday during a fight with a pair of jail inmates suspected of being drunk, officials said.

Santa Clara County’s beleaguered jail system got another black eye when two inmates in protective custody at Elmwood Correctional Facility allegedly fermented fruit inside their cells and made alcohol, according to sheriff’s department spokesman Sgt. James Jensen.

Things got out of hand at the Milpitas jail when deputies smelled the alcohol, he said.

"Three deputies went to escort two inmates out of their cell," Jensen said. "One inmate was compliant. Another inmate kicked a deputy in the face."

The deputy who was kicked in the face was initially believed to have a broken jaw. He doesn't, officials said, but did have to undergo stitches.

A second deputy got his hands and knees injured while a third suffered minor injuries, he added. Two deputies were taken to an area hospital.

"You have to remember jails are inherently dangerous places," Jensen said.

Monday’s violent scuffle and subsequent questions about security concerns at the county facilities come a week after NBC Bay Area obtained leaked memos written in late 2014.

The documents warn that the camera surveillance system at Elmwood is outdated and that it jeopardizes safety and security.

"Although these are medium security inmates, they are still very dangerous," Jensen said. "However, our correctional deputies do a great job every day."

Sources who work at the jail said they try to do a good job, but morale is low. They say they work mandatory overtime daily and deputies are leaving the department because they don’t get support from upper management.

Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith has come under fire after a mentally ill inmate Michael Tyree was beaten to death by three deputies while in custody at the Main Jail.

Jensen said the county is working on being open and transparent.

"The sheriff is aware of the altercation," he said. "She actually visited the deputies at the hospital. I came out here for transparency so the public is aware of what’s going on in our jail system."

Meanwhile, Jensen said the sheriff’s department has no plans to tolerate Monday’s attack.

"We are going to make sure criminal charges will be filed against the inmates and the sheriff will follow up with prosecution," he said.

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