Officials call for changes after fatal inmate beating in South Bay

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KTVU) -- Santa Clara County leaders announced Thursday that they are forming a task force to investigate inmate safety in the wake of a fatal beating of a prisoner at the Santa Clara County Main Jail by three correctional officers now charged with his murder.

Officials are also enlisting the help of the federal government to review jail policies.

In the wake of Michael Tyree’s beating death in his jail cell allegedly at the hands of three correctional deputies, Santa Clara County leaders are calling for swift action to improve its jail system.

Among the recommendations include forming a blue ribbon task force to investigate inmate care, modernizing and expanding the surveillance camera system and establishing an anonymous hotline to report abuse.

"We respond to complaints all of the time,” said Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith. “Unfortunately it's a huge tragedy and I’m sorry it happened, very sorry to the family to the decedent in this case. We are always reviewing our conditions.”

The sheriff also talked about mental health training for the three correctional deputies given Tyree was mentally ill.

“I hold full responsibility for this action and for what happened,” said Smith. “Would mental health training have prevented this? iI think these are rogue deputies that committed force and allegedly killed someone as a result of their force?"

The undersheriff said the county is enlisting the help of U.S. Department of Justice to help manage its mentally ill population. Right now, 48 percent of the 36-hundred inmates housed in the county jail system suffer from mental illness.

Delorme McKee-Stovall works for the county's office of human relations. She said last year her office received 70 jail complaints from the public and the majority of them dealing with medical care.

“I think it's a good next step in what we are trying to do,” said McKee-Stovall. “I wish this tragedy hadn't happened and forced us to be speedier in terms of our reaction.”

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors will hear the proposed recommendations on Tuesday. If approved, it could take 90 days for the blue ribbon committee to be up and running.

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