Sheriff Laurie Smith’s Beyond Thunderdome

Do Not Let Sheriff Smith’s Office Investigate Latest Jail Incident!

Current reports are that a 64 year old inmate is at the hospital, reportedly brain dead according to sources inside the jail, severely beaten by his cellmate.

I can’t stress this enough. I just read the Mercury News story and got off the phone with my sources. The sheriff needs to be removed from this investigation. That the county would even allow her to lead this investigation at this point as reported by the Mercury News is surreal.

This is a disaster of unmitigated proportions and the sheriff is already attempting to hide it. In my last blog I mentioned that my next story was going to be about a recent attempt to take over the jail that was thwarted by sheer luck.

This beating of a 64 year old inmate by a 29 year old inmate just happened in the same unit from what I’m being told. I just scratched my entire blog that I was working on when I found out these two major incidents happened in the same unit within 2 weeks of each other.

This is long and complicated, but I will try my best to run it through from beginning to end and make sense of it. The sheriff has all but closed Main Jail South (MJS), with currently only 100 inmates remaining. This is the area she spent about $300K of taxpayer money to place cameras in, only to close it months later and move these inmates to Elmwood where incident after incident is happening with no cameras. At least Elmwood has 1970’s steel and not that frangible 1950’s stuff, right Undersheriff Neusel?

One of the big issues when the Blue Ribbon Commission was going on was the failure to correctly classify inmates. It was one of the first things the sheriff claimed to be addressing before the commission even ended. I am being told the Sheriff is now down-classing inmates with serious crimes so she can move them from MJS to Elmwood. Elmwood is increasingly populated by sophisticated inmates who increasingly pose a danger to jail security, inmates, deputies and the public (I really hope everyone in Milpitas reads this and understands the gravity of this situation).

This particular Unit M5-A, has recently been designated for “special management inmates” – which simply means these are inmates with special issues, be they mental health, or gang affiliations, they are all put together per this designation; a designation none of my sources can provide a very clear definition of.

This unit was recently made a 2-deputy unit, one of the only ones in the jail due to staffing issues. This was done just about 2 weeks ago, immediately after a deputy came upon inmates who had popped their cell doors, broke into a control panel to the remaining door locks which they had begun to open. Fortunately the situation was such the few inmates out at that moment, for whatever reason, ran back to their cells when the deputies discovered what was happening.

Keep in mind, this is an area with no documentation via camera, so the investigation into who was out, who rigged their locks to get out of their cells, who broken into the control panel, etc. is significantly hindered. The sheriff failed to provide information to deputies about what happened, setting the stage for further security risks, and information has only reached corrections personnel through the grapevine. See, the sheriff’s priorities here are such that it’s more important you not find out about an attempted takeover of a medium security jail that had the potential for break outs as well, than it is to ensure her personnel have information to do their jobs safely and keep the jails and the community safe.

Now we have an inmate who has been beaten, possibly to death, in this same unit and the County Board of Supervisors is going to allow Sheriff Laurie Smith “spearhead” the investigation of their jails when she’s been hiding information.

Let’s start the investigation with this information: Response time to the fight was delayed by as much as 15 minutes due to lack of concise policy and training on how to handle situations on this unit.

Someone explain to me how you open a special unit in a jail, blur the lines in regards to inmate classifications, fail create solid policy, and train your officers to that policy. Explain to me how this is still going on under the Board of Supervisors noses and being hidden from the public after all the outrage and the work on the Blue Ribbon Commission.

This is a breaking situation, and there is more to be said, but I’m waiting for more information. If this story continues to grow and the sheriff is found to be engaging in further diversions from her responsibility, keep your eyes open for another blog post on this issue.

In the meantime, you may want to read this story about now convicted, former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca and consider the parallels here and weigh how many signs we want to miss regarding our sheriff before we demand she resign.