Supervisor Chavez's Accomplishments in Public Safety and Justice

Santa Clara County Main Jail - 150 West Hedding Street

Supervisor Cindy Chavez is improving Santa Clara County's public safety and justice system on everything from bail reform for non-violent, low-risk defendants to reconfiguring the design of our jails and programs for inmates so they don't end up back in jail after they are released.

The criminal justice changes are designed to improve public safety, spend public dollars efficiently and ensure our justice system treats everyone fairly:

Supervisor Chavez's work in progress

  • Bail Reform: Bail and Release/Pretrial Justice Reform:  To fix the existing inequality in Santa Clara County's bail system, reforms have been developed offering ways to ensure suspects in minor or non-violent crimes show up for court dates. Santa Clara is the first county in the state of California to pass bail reform. Public safety is the top priority when developing reforms to make sure non-violent suspects return to court instead of sitting in jail not able to work, sometimes losing their jobs, unable to attend school delaying their degrees or losing their homes because they can't work and pay their mortgages. In turn this also reduces the numbers of people in jail at a cost to taxpayers of $200 a day.
    • Bail and Release Work Group: The Ontario Domestic Assault Risk Assessment (ODARA) tool went into effect in July 2017. This tool helps insure the county is not releasing dangerous people to the public and their families. It is a 13 question interview with the victim and is used to assess whether offenders are likely to re-assault their current or former domestic or dating partners. It is evidence-based, validated and focuses on the safety of the victims. The project started in July 2017 in partnership with the Office of Pretrial Services and the Santa Clara County Superior Court.
  • Increased staff and hours of at the Santa Clara County Court's Self-Help Center:  Due to Supervisor Chavez's leadership, people representing themselves in Santa Clara County Superior Court in matters including domestic-violence cases and tenant housing disputes are getting a boost with increased staffing and hours at the court's Self-Help Center. The county is budgeting $1.6 million over three years, on top of $936,000 from the governor's budget, to restore service from three to five days starting in January 2019 and increasing the number staff attorneys assigned to the center located at the Family Justice Center in downtown San Jose.
    • A majority of legal tenant disputes and domestic violence cases in Santa Clara County Superior court involve people who represent themselves. Statewide, about 70 percent of all court cases involve people representing themselves.
    • Reduced wait times are a primary goal of the new funding. According to the court, in the 2017-2018 fiscal year, the Self-Help Center assisted 3,900 people a month, but due to staffing shortages about 40 percent could only be partially helped or were told to come back on another day.
    • The court will be hiring and training new staff and eliminating an existing backlog before expanding hours in January.
    • Besides the boosts in availability and staffing, the center will be able to hold legal workshops on Friday afternoons aimed at issues including limited conservatorships for developmentally disabled adults. Other services at the center include assistance with cases involving restraining orders and domestic violence, civil harassment, elder abuse, caregiver authorization, domestic partnerships, divorces, legal separations and child custody.
  • Rape Kit Processing:  In 2018, Supervisor Chavez in partnership with the Santa Clara County District Attorney along with community and nonprofit leaders made Santa Clara the first county in the state to expedite the processing of rape kits to no longer than 30 days. The Santa Clara County District Attorney agreed to clear the backlog of 120 Sexual Assault Response Team kits; process all SART kits under 30 days; a policy outlining the updated SART kits processing procedure and timeline based on best practices completed; and outreach to all law enforcement agencies. The Board also approved the budget including funds to expand crime lab staff and resources. The first report back to the board on the changes will be September 2019.
  • Intimate Partner Violence Services:  The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors approved an historic 400 percent increase ($6.125 million dollars) in funding for services ranging from housing to mental health.
    • Supervisor Cindy Chavez – who established and co-chaired the Intimate Partner Violence Blue Ribbon Commission in 2016 with Supervisor Ken Yeager to transform services for domestic violence survivors – said the 400 percent boost in funding will change the trajectory of many survivors' lives.
    • This unprecedented investment in funding for survivors of domestic violence shows Santa Clara County's values. We want survivors to move on with their lives with educational, mental health, housing, childcare and employment services.
    • The recent statistics on domestic violence survivors in Santa Clara County have been troubling and Chavez is expecting that to change with the funding increase.
    • Santa Clara County receives more than 20,322 domestic violence hotline calls a year (this does NOT include 911 calls) and previously spent less than one million dollars on services for intimate partner violence survivors.
    • There were close to 2,000 unmet requests for shelter from domestic violence survivors because of lack of funding in 2014-15.
    • In 2017, there were 13 domestic violence-related deaths in Santa Clara County: double the number of deaths from 2016. In 2016, there were seven domestic violence related deaths in Santa Clara County according to the Domestic Violence Death Review Team.
  • Sobering Center:  It opened in October 2017 at the Santa Clara County Re-Entry Center with 20 chairs as of January 2018 after Supervisor Chavez helped resurrected the program that was run out of a trailer behind the Main Jail on Hedding Street until 2003. The new and improved sobering center is used by police departments from throughout the county including San Jose, Campbell, Mountain View, Santa Clara and the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department.
    • For police it takes five to 10 minutes to drop someone off at the sobering center instead of spending up to two hours to book that same person into county jail.
    • It is a huge benefit because police can then deal with higher-priority calls.
    • The new program in the Re-Entry Center is open 365 days a year.
    • It has recliners that reduce dizziness compared to lying flat on a bed and a team of nurses and recovery coaches. The center offers warm drinks, snacks, fresh laundry and referrals to detox programs, residential treatment centers and housing services.
    • Chavez says in six minutes or less officers can be back on the street keeping our communities safe by dropping off inebriated people at the sobering station.
    • In addition, it will save the county thousands of dollars every year because we won't be housing unnecessarily in the county jail.
  • Office of Correction and Law Enforcement Monitoring:  Supervisor Cindy Chavez played a major leadership role in developing this office following the murder of mentally ill inmate Michael Tyree by three jail guards. The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors approved a civilian oversight of the jails. The supervisors created the county Office of Correction and Law Enforcement Monitoring as well as a community advisory board to increase scrutiny of county law enforcement functions.
    • The office will provide residents and inmates a place to file grievances and concerns.
    • The board will contract with an independent entity which could be a person, a business or firm.
    • The monitor will track and report back to the board about law enforcement operations and the use of force and other conditions in the jail, including solitary confinement and the sheriff's response to public and inmate complaints.
    • The monitor will also be responsible for keeping tracks on mental and other health services offered in the jail.
    • The advisory board will be made-up of a nine-member committee of county residents with each elected supervisor appointing a member, and the other four being nominated by the monitor.
    • The term for the members, who will be selected within six months to a year after the monitor is chosen, ultimately will be three years, though some will initially serve one- or two-year terms to stagger the appointments. County officials will also take part as non-voting members under the terms of the ordinance.
    • The Board is expected to make a decision on the person, firm or business in Spring 2019. After the monitor is chosen, the process of establishing an advisory board will begin.
  • Jail Diversion and Behavioral Health:  This went into effect in December 2017 expanding community-based behavioral health services and housing services.
    • Increased post-custody mental health & co-occurring outpatient services by 40 slots on April 18, 2017.
    • Added 20 Criminal Justice Full Service Partnerships in February 2017.
    • Added 50 post-custody client slots to the 120-day Intensive Outpatient Service Team to connect clients with housing, services and benefits with the support of Peer Mentors on April 18, 2017.
    • Added flex funds to Full Service Partnerships to provide housing for 50 clients in February 2017.
    • Established a Permanent Supportive Housing program that would initially house up to 90 chronically homeless clients with serious mental illnesses in February 2017.
    • Enhanced the Behavioral Health Services Department and Office of Pretrial Services staffing by one position each to support the jail diversion program.
  • Community Awaiting Placement Supervision:  Motivated by the work of the Jail Diversion Subcommittee, co-chaired by Supervisor Chavez, the County launched the Community Awaiting Placement Supervision (CAPS) Program. Since April 2017, multi-disciplinary CAPS team assists seriously mentally ill individuals exiting the jail by expediting their entry into the appropriate mental health treatment. Individuals are carefully supervised in the community, outside the jail, while they are waiting for treatment beds to become available. Individuals rarely abscond or commit new crimes while under CAPS supervision.
  • Gender Responsive Assessment of the Jails:  Supervisor Chavez has been requesting an assessment of the jails in order to ensure gender responsible programs, services, policies and procedures in the jail. The request for a proposal will be issued soon by the Sheriff's Office soliciting this service.
  • Improving access to medications to individuals leaving the County jail:  Custody Health Services will pursue a contract with a company to ensure 24/7 access to medications after release.
  • Sufficient and sufficiently-equipped space for parenting education in the New Jail:  We want to make sure that the New Jail has adequate space for parenting classes for detainees. Referral was approved on 10/30/18.
  • Permanent classroom spaces in Elmwood:  There is a chronic lack of classroom space at the jail to ensure vocational and other training and education for detainees. Supervisor Chavez's referral was approved on 12/04/18. There will be a report back to the Board midyear with an assessment of classroom space needs in Elmwood, a budget and a timeline for building permanent classroom spaces in Elmwood.
  • Evaluation of existing parenting programs at the Jail and Resource Center:  Supervisor Chavez and former Supervisor Ken Yeager earlier asked for insuring evidence-based and continuous parenting programs for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals. A report to the Board is expected in March 2019 regarding an inventory and evaluation of existing parenting programs at the Jail and Reentry.
  • Pretrial Release Unit in the Office of the Public Defender:  Supervisor Chavez wants to improve the insufficient representation and unfair detention of indigent clients represented by Public Defender's Office post-arrest and pre-arraignment. Her referral was approved on 12/18/18. Administration is scheduled to report to the Board at mid-year with options for consideration relating to the establishment of this unit.
  • Analysis of medical services provided at the Ranch:  Supervisor Chavez and former Supervisor Ken Yeager want an analysis of the medical and behavioral health services at the Ranch adequate given the change in the population and Prop 57. Supervisor Chavez requested that the proposal be moved to midyear and asked for an analysis of adding one or two registered nurses at the Ranch.

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