Guest authored by Deputy Brutus Serpico
It is with great concern that I write this article. I am a Correctional Deputy, who luckily has been in a “comfortable” spot not on the front lines, during these turbulent times in the Santa Clara Jail System, especially the Main Jail.
I will not be discussing the 6B incident, because I know little or nothing about the incident other than what has been reported to the general public. This incident has caused tremendous security risk in our jail to inmates, to officers, to civilians working in the jail, and even to the public. Now I am not a person to not notice the future and the need for law enforcement in general to change and adapt to societal change, but this should not be done without considering the risks to staff and the public.
After the infamous incident, the use of force training has changed for new officers and many are afraid to use force of any type. Yet, the penal code and case law that gives us the ability to use force has not changed. Now mental health has become part of the use of force in Main Jail, which delays the process, empowers inmates to control the facility, and undercuts the discretion and ability of officers to maintain control of units with 60 to 90 criminals, most of the time with only one deputy to control these naturally hostile environments. Inmates are not in jail, because they follow rules and obey authority figures. The changes in use of force not only put officers at risk and empower inmates, but it also makes the units more dangerous for nurses and other civilians who work in the facility. These inmates are more aggressive, assertive, and confrontational with correctional and civilian staff.
This is not the only risk that has arisen. Most Correctional staff is weary of doing their job as thoroughly as they used to, because they are afraid of the scrutiny and perceived punishment that will come from administration. For instance, random security searches, strip searches, and even pat down searches have greatly decreased, because the administration in the jail is more concerned with inmates getting time out of the cell rather than finding drugs and weapons that are abundant now in the jail. The focus of administration is completely on inmate happiness, for fear of lawsuits and public perception, rather than the safety and security of this facility.
Did you know there was a legitimate escape attempt made recently in the jail? Luckily some officers were aware of their job and discovered this before the attempt could be made. But the inmates had the tools and plans to bring a gun into the Main Jail and take a deputy hostage. This could have been catastrophic and luckily it wasn’t. A note was found detailing some of the inmates’ plan, in which it states that the deputies were “slippin” and were getting lack in their security checks. This is something I and others have noticed and that has grown in abundance since the changes in the department due to an alleged crime.
What about staffing? It is an unfortunate reality that the jails are running with minimum staffing and yet the administration continues to demand the jail still operate as fully staffed. The fact is a dorm or multiple dorms will be lost if the inmates decide to work together. And there is a lack of staff, equipment, and training for correctional staff to handle this situation effectively. Riots are in the future if nothing is done to correct this issue.
There are many more issues I am sure valiant officers currently working on the front lines could identify, but these are a few of the major issues I have seen. I know it is only the tip of the metaphorical iceberg.
The truth is an officer will die in the jail at the hands of inmates, something that has never happened in Santa Clara County. Inmates run the Main Jail now, not correctional staff, and when you leave murderers and gang bangers in charge it is only a matter of time before they do the things that placed them in jail. This is my greatest fear and I am afraid it will be realized sooner rather than later.
I sit here afraid to write this, because it is well known that our current Sheriff and current administration is very retaliatory. Yet, I can’t stand by, I can’t remain quiet, and I can’t watch as my fellow officers are put in danger. The even more distressing fact is that nothing will be done to correct this situation. Correctional staff I have spoken with, as well as myself, believe this and are beaten and disheartened. We attempt to do our best, but we are humans and we can only be ignored and threatened for so long before we stop being effective at our job. And that point has been passed months ago. Correctional staff has no motivation, no respect for or belief in the administration, and no hope. And the loss of hope literally means death for our heroic and brave correctional staff.
Thank you for reading this and be safe,
Deputy Brutus Serpico