Jail guards file complaint, alleging changes jeopardize their safety

SAN JOSE — The union that represents Santa Clara County jail guards has filed an unfair labor practices complaint, claiming that Sheriff Laurie Smith’s administration failed to give advance notice of 12 workplace changes that jeopardize their safety, including allowing inmates to wear deck shoes rather than slippers outside their cells.

Deck shoes offer violent inmates a tactical advantage in fights because they provide better grip than the usual flip-flops inmates wear, according to the complaint to the state Public Employment Relations Board.

The unfair labor practices complaint also makes 11 other allegations, including that Smith’s administration recently changed what it does when the radio system that allows correctional deputies to communicate with each other goes down.

In the past, the jail would be immediately locked down because officers would have no way to call for help if an inmate attacked someone. Now, the guards have been directed to continue moving inmates, including bringing them to medical and outside service provider visits.

The sheriff could not immediately be reached for comment.

However, some of the changes the union objects to were called for by a blue-ribbon commission convened to evaluate the jails after three guards beat to death mentally ill inmate MIchael Tyree in August 2015.

For instance, the sheriff has eliminated so-called “custody inputs,” written cards that correctional officers fill out to document inmate conduct, including any gang ties or mental health issues. The cards helped determine where inmates were housed, and the union claims that eliminating them imperils their members.

But two reports commissioned by the blue-ribbon commission painted a picture of a largely unmonitored complaint system susceptible to corruption prior to Tyree’s death. At the time, officers could refuse to give inmates a grievance form or bully them into not submitting one, and harshly retaliate if they do. And inmates also described …read more

Source:: The Mercury News

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