A new report suggests the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office needs more deputies, but county officials say the findings are outdated and unhelpful.
Santa Clara County recently released a draft that analyzes staffing levels at the sheriff's office and county jails. The 404-page report, which cost $225,000, was authorized in 2019 and finished late this summer. However, now the county plans to issue a request for proposals to generate a new report.
The report, conducted by CGL Companies, found that the sheriff's office was understaffed by 60 workers and the jail system was short by 54 employees. The analysis also noted that the understaffing issue was not equally distributed among facilities.
Sheriff Laurie Smith, who is facing scrutiny — and demands for resignation — over her management of the jail system, has called for the release of the study. She's up for re-election in June 2022.
"We are really pleased there was an objective look at our staffing levels by an expert organization," Smith told San Jose Spotlight through a spokesperson. "This report demonstrates the sheriff's office is clearly understaffed. With additional personnel, we look forward to providing enhanced levels of service."
Smith didn't comment on the county's decision to request an updated report.
COVID-19 changes the county jails
The county's main jail, which incarcerates people who have been sentenced or are waiting to stand trial, had 23 deputies over the needed staffing level. The Elmwood Complex, in contrast, needs at least 76 more deputies to adequately maintain operation. Elmwood consistently lacked 20 percent of required staff per shift, resulting in extensive use of leave and overtime, the analysis found.
County officials, however, claim data on jail staff collected in early summer 2019 is no longer relevant in the post-COVID world, and plan to redo the study.
"(We were) in a much different environment in the jail," County Executive Jeff Smith told San Jose Spotlight. "We're recommending that we go out again to get another consultant to do a new study based on new data."
Santa Clara County jails saw a significant drop in incarcerated people in the last 18 months — from 3,239 to 2,342 people, according to the county. County officials anticipate the jail population will remain low because of a recent initiative that allows early release for those with good behavior credits. Plus, its diversion program releases individuals with mental health and substance use disorders into community services and treatment facilities.
This story, from Bay City News Service, was originally published on San Jose Spotlight.