Cadets learn new policies in Santa Clara Co. jail reform

The newest group of cadets in the Santa Clara County adult custody academy will learn new policies as the agency works to implement jail reforms following the death of an inmate two years ago.

Undersheriff Carl Neusel addressed the group on Monday at the sheriff’s office in San Jose. He told the recruits the agency’s world changed when three of their correctional officers murdered inmate Michael Tyree in August 2015. The three deputies were convicted last month of Tyree’s murder.

It is why the current group of cadets will be the first to be trained on a new use of force policy and the first to be issued body worn cameras.

“This academy training is going to reflect many of the jail reforms on the verge of being implemented,” Neusel said.

For example, if an inmate needs to be moved from a cell and refuses to come out, officers must now follow a number of de-escalation techniques. A mental health staff member will also talk to the inmate and if the inmate does not comply, officers will give the inmate a time out period to cool down. Neusel said they will only use force as a last resort.

“It’s pretty interesting how we are going to be implementing new policies,” Robert Costa, a cadet, said. “I'm excited to be a part of that class and those new policies.”

Another cadet, Karen Davalos, said her background of being an officer and working in a psychiatric ward will help in her work as a correctional officer.

“I know the approach that people need to take toward them,” Davalos said. “I understand their needs and that we need to treat them with dignity and respect regardless of what they have done.”

Neusel said recruits will also spend an 8-hour day in jail at the end of academy. They will don jail clothing in a role reversal experience that is intended to help them gain greater empathy and understanding toward inmates.

“The academy class is going to be immersed in these new philosophies which embody a caretaker and guardian spirit,” Neusel added.

The 68 cadets could fill half of the 103 vacancies at the jail following a number of retirements. It is a diverse group of men and women who are expected to treat each inmate with dignity and respect.

The class is set to graduate in October 2017.