Bay Area law enforcement officials are investigating the Santa Clara County Main Jail for several instances of excessive abuse and misconduct towards inmates which have occurred as long ago as April 2015.
A new investigation into the bludgeoning of inmate Ruben Garcia on July 23, 2015 has begun after additional allegations of physical abuse were made by correctional officers within the jail.
Guards Philip Abecendario and Tuan Le allegedly beat Garcia repeatedly while he was shackled and unable to defend himself until Garcia’s jaw became permanently disfigured.
In response to public criticism and investigations from the Santa Clara Police Department, the Santa Clara County Main Jail has temporarily relieved the two guards from their normal duties.
The additional complaints [lend] credence to what we’re hearing, that the Michael Tyree incident wasn’t isolated. It adds even more urgency to our work.
Independent Police Auditor for Santa Clara County
Late last August, the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department removed three guards from their posts in the jail for allegedly beating inmate Michael Tyree to death. Tyree, a mentally ill inmate, suffered from multiple blunt force wounds before succumbing to his injuries on Aug. 27. Though these guards pleaded not guilty in a trial last month, the accusation raises alarming concerns about inmate treatment.
In addition to these high-profile cases of abuse, the current inmates at the jail have spoken out themselves. In a letter to the San Jose Mercury in late 2015, 41 inmates claimed that the guards threatened them with a “war they cannot win” if they filed grievances.
Since Tyree’s death five months ago, the jail has placed eight guards on probation pending the results of the investigation of inmate abuse and lawlessness.
In October 2015, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) stepped in to aid the troubled jail, after news of nearly 100 inmate complaints of guard misconduct reached the public.
Two months later, the FBI and the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office released a grievance after completing their probe that found that more than a dozen guards had exchanged text messages filled with racial slurs. These degrading texts drew harsh criticism from the Sherriff.
Sheriff Laurie Smith, who oversees all Bay Area jails, called the texts “repugnant and vile” in a written statement. Following the allegations against the jail, Smith has vowed to bring about change and hold the guilty guards responsible for their actions.
In July of 2015, Donald Specter, the director of the Prison Law Office, a firm dedicated to improving the care of inmates, labeled the Santa Clara County Main Jail as “harsher and more punitive than most” in a letter he penned to a prisoner rights group.
Once the country determined that the jails could not function efficiently, they appointed Ladoris Cordell, Independent Police Auditor of Santa Clara County, to oversee the workings of the prison. Cordell recently released an official statement on the investigation.
“The additional complaints [lend] credence to what we’re hearing, that the Michael Tyree incident wasn’t isolated,” Cordell said in his statement. “It adds even more urgency to our work.”