John Hirokawa

Mayor Calls Cortese’s Sheriff Proposal ‘Political’ Ploy

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed said a new proposal for sheriff officers to assist San Jose police would only be considered after other issues are resolved.

Elected officials in San Jose and Santa Clara County have expressed diplomatic, if not cautious, public support for a proposal that would have the Sheriff’s Office assist an undermanned San Jose Police Department. But behind the scenes, the two law enforcement agencies have been at odds for more than a year over services already contracted.

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Federal Ruling Slashes Cost of Out-of-State Inmate Phone Calls

The cost of out-of-state phone calls just got a whole lot cheaper for inmates. (Photo via Department of Corrections)

A federal ruling will dramatically cut the cost of out-of-state phone calls for Santa Clara County inmates, making it actually cheaper to dial long distance than local. The Federal Communications Commission handed down a directive this month that drops the price for inmates calling to another state by 85 percent, though it’s been met with legal opposition from the phone companies that have a monopoly on jail and prison telecommunications. Global Tel-Link, the service provider for the 700 phones at both Elmwood Jail in Milpitas and the main jail in San Jose, is asking a judge to delay the ruling.

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Grand Jury Reports Dominate Board of Supervisors’ Next Meeting

Three Civil Grand Jury reports will go before the Board of Supervisors next week.

The people in charge of providing financial and protective services for Santa Clara County residents run a department lacking structure and accountability, according to a just-released Civil Grand Jury audit that goes before the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. Other items on the board agenda include grand jury reviews for health inspections of food trucks and farmers markets, and a review of Juvenile Hall.

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County Sheriff’s Office Scraps Proposal to Limit Jail Mail to Postcards

Stacey “Steeda” McGruder, right, helped bring awareness to a proposal by the Sheriff’s Office to limit jail mail to postcards. The proposal was scrapped last week. (Photo by Jennifer Wadsworth)

Santa Clara County inmates will continue receiving mail after jail officials abandoned a contentious plan to limit correspondence to just postcards. Jail chief John Hirokawa originally brought up the idea earlier this summer in hopes of limiting the amount of drugs smuggled in through envelopes or postage stamps. But the community put up a fight, saying the mail restriction could dry up prisoners’ ties with friends, family and life outside their cell. The county jail and Elmwood Correctional Facility receive about 200,000 pieces of mail a year. If the postcard-only policy passed, the county would have become the first in Northern California to enact such a ban and one of a few-dozen in the nation.

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Community Activists Cite Civil Rights Concerns with Jail Mail Policy Changes

Salvatore Lombardo, a custody support assistant at Elmwood Correctional Facility, says he doesn’t feel unsafe opening mail at the county jail.

The sheriff’s office recently proposed limiting all mail sent to inmates to postcards instead of the envelope-enclosed letters currently allowed. Sorting through the 200,000 letters a year is tedious, jail officials say. Some of the letters are soaked, spliced or stamped with drugs: PCP, acid, meth and other contraband. Some contain needles. Some hide gang communications. The idea of switching to simply postcards—outside of inmates’ communications with their attorneys—would save money and time. But families and friends of inmates, as well as community activists, argue that the change would constitute a civil rights violation and endanger the rehabilitation of those incarcerated.

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