Santa Clara County considers jail alternatives after death of mentally unstable inmate

Santa Clara County considers jail alternatives after death of mentally unstable inmate

Stock photo | Wikimedia Commons

SANTA CLARA COUNTY— After the death of a mentally ill Santa Clara County Jail inmate of which three correctional officers — Matthew Farris, Jereh Lubrin, and Rafael Rodriguez — are suspected, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the creation of a Jail Diversion and Behavioral Health Subcommittee of the Re-Entry Network.

The subcommittee will consider using alternatives to incarceration for individuals with mental illness and substance abuse issues.

“An important aspect of public safety is effectively diverting individuals who could otherwise be helped by community based treatment from being arrested and/or incarcerated,” said District 2 Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez. “The work of the Re-Entry Center, the Blue Ribbon Commission on Improving Custody Operations and the recommendations that will come from this “No-Entry” subcommittee will help redefine how the County approaches public safety.”

The Blue Ribbon Commission is expected to examine the complaint process during incarceration, discipline of correctional officers, the Inmate Welfare Fund, and other issues as they arise in the scope of its work.

“An alarming majority of inmates in our jails suffer from mental health and substance use problems,” said Supervisor Yeager, who co-authored the board referral. “That’s why the work of this subcommittee is critical. I’m eager to hear their recommendations on how we best move forward.”

The goals and strategies of the group is to identify strategies for preventing individuals with mental health needs from becoming offenders; identify gaps and strategies for community-based treatment solutions for individuals with mental health and substance use problems (particularly those who have a history of or are at risk of offending), assess training needs of relevant personnel (ex. law enforcement, first responders), ensure cultural competency is included in community based solutions and discharge planning, and be prepared to address any other relevant issues as they arise from the Subcommittee’s work.

“The benefits and results of strong Diversion Programs are well documented throughout the County,” said Gail Price, Chair of the Santa Clara County Behavioral Health Board. “The creation of this long overdue subcommittee is a critical step to improve behavioral health devices.”

“We commend Supervisors Chavez and Yeager for identifying an avenue to address the critical issue of diversion and behavioral health for those in custody,” said Elisa Koff-Ginsborg, Executive Director of the Behavioral Health Contractors’ Association. “Far too many people whose crime stems from their mental illness or substance use problems are in our jails. Our membership looks forward to working together with Supervisor Chavez and Judge Manley to identify the steps to transform how these vulnerable people can be served in the community.”

On December 5, 2015, Judge Stephen Manley put forward, and the Blue Ribbon Commission on Improving Custody Operations unanimously approved, a recommendation that the Re-Entry Network form a subcommittee to receive public testimony and formulate policy recommendations related to diverting individuals from being detained at the County’s jails.

Santa Clara County considers jail alternatives after death of mentally unstable inmate was last modified: December 17th, 2015 by admin
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Amy Nilson

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