Santa Clara County is accepting applications for a commission that will examine local jails in response to the fatal beating of a mentally ill inmate.
The 25-member blue ribbon commissionâformed by a unanimous Board of Supervisors vote earlier this weekâwill conduct a top-down review of the countyâs custody operations and suggest ways to improve it.
âWe are empowering these commissioners to hear testimony, review documents and be able to call on county staff to answer questions and provide information,â Supervisor Dave Cortese said in a statement. âWeâre putting all hands on deck.â
Sheriff Laurie Smith, who oversees the Department of Corrections, also plans to install more surveillance cameras, promote an inmate hotline and grant more access to volunteer clergy and inmate advocates.
The blue ribbon commission will hold a series of public meetings to evaluate the current state of Elmwood and the Main Jail, and discuss which policies and procedures need reform. Commissioners will hear testimony from the public and will meet regularly for six months.
On Aug. 27, 31-year-old Michael Tyree, locked up on a petty theft charge, was found bloodied and lifeless on the floor of his cell. In the ensuing week, Smith arrested three correctional officersâJereh Lubrin, Matthew Farris and Rafael Rodriquezâand accused them of murder. The District Attorneyâs Office formally charged the trio days later.
âWe have an obligation to operate our custody facilities in an open and transparent manner in holding with the highest standards of legality, safety and decency,â Supervisor Cindy Chavez said.
The commission will include two supervisors, Chief of Correction John Hirokawa, a retired or active judge, mental health experts, clergy, advocates from civil rights, womenâs rights and inmate rights groups, custody staff, inmate relatives, former inmates and the general public. Smith will also sit on the panel, along with Public Defender Molly OâNeal, Chief Probation Officer Laura Garnette, District Attorney Jeff Rosen and Behavioral Health Director Toni Tullys.
Originally, the commission was to include 17 members, but Cortese asked to expand it to 25.
âThe public will be best served by a larger and more diverse body,â Cortese said.
The application period will close the evening of Friday, Oct. 16. Cortese, as board president, will appoint members two weeks after the application period closes.
For more information, call Corteseâs office at 408.299.5030. Click here to print the application.