The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors is seeking alternatives to tear gas and pepper spray in their jails, particularly when dealing with mentally ill inmates. This decision comes after a report from the Office of Correction and Law Enforcement Monitoring reviewed 17 situations in which tear gas or pepper spray was used, and concluded that these chemical agents were necessary in certain cases involving inmate extraction, court-ordered medication, acute psychiatric unit transfers, and suicide precautions.
However, the supervisors expressed concern about the use of these harsh tactics on mentally ill individuals. They unanimously voted to have the law enforcement oversight group and the Sheriff’s Office collaborate on developing alternative methods for handling acute psychiatric situations without relying on chemical agents.
Assistant Sheriff David Sepulveda explained that tear gas and pepper spray were used to avoid physically restraining inmates, which can result in injuries to both the individual and the staff. Sheriff Bob Johnson, who took office last year, expressed openness to the recommendations in the report, such as raising the rank of the officer approving the use of chemical agents and prohibiting their use on inmates with respiratory issues.
Board President Supervisor Susan Ellenberg emphasized the importance of finding alternatives to incarceration for individuals with mental illnesses. The goal is to address the fact that these individuals should not be in a correctional setting in the first place. The supervisors recognized the need for training, protocols, and oversight to ensure the thoughtful, effective, and compassionate use of tactics in the county’s correctional facilities.
Santa Clara County is committed to examining and improving their approach to handling mentally ill inmates, ensuring their safety while also promoting a more humane and appropriate response to their needs.
– Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors
– Office of Correction and Law Enforcement Monitoring
– Assistant Sheriff David Sepulveda
– Sheriff Bob Johnson
– Board President Supervisor Susan Ellenberg