The Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office is "encouraged" that an inmate hunger strike, demanding an end to solitary confinement practices, appears to be over, said spokesman Sgt. Rich Glennon.
The strike, which put the jails under scrutiny in recent days, came just months after county supervisors unanimously approved recommendations on how to improve the jails, which included the prospect of appointing an inspector general to provide independent oversight.
The Mercury News reported on Friday that the strike apparently ended after a meeting between the inmates and jail officials.
The paper reports that it is unclear whether any concessions were made between the two parties over the inmates' five demands.
Glennon said they look forward to "maintaining open lines of communication as we move ahead with reforms in the future."
The hunger strike, which reached its fifth day on Friday, was set to last two weeks and was part of a nationwide call for sweeping changes in jail operations and conditions.
Roger Winslow, vice president of the Deputy Sheriffs' Association of Santa Clara County, said in a statement on Thursday that the union agreed with inmates on missteps in leadership by Sheriff Laurie Smith. Here's more from Winslow's statement:
We are now on day four of the hunger strike by Santa Clara County jail inmates and Sheriff Laurie Smith has yet to take any action to address this protest. The issues raised by these inmates are not new concerns, nor are they concerns unique to the inmates. We find ourselves in agreement with the striking inmates. They point to leadership failures on the part of the sheriff that have also been articulated by the Prison Law Office in Berkeley, the Blue Ribbon Commission, and the National Institute of Corrections. Despite these calls for reform from a range of voices, the sheriff refuses to implement common-sense policies that would help officers better serve and protect our community. Her lackluster response to the serious hunger strike at hand is yet another example of her incompetence.
On Friday the sheriff's office released a statement saying it has implemented reforms "specifically addressing" the inmates' concerns, including an increase in out-of-cell time.
County supervisors began a review of recommendations for improving the jails after the August 2015 beating death of Michael Tyree, a mentally ill inmate who died while in custody at the Main Jail. Smith was scrutinized for her leadership after three Santa Clara County jail guards were accused of beating Tyree to death.
Jose Valle, a community organizer for Silicon Valley De-Bug and a former county jail inmate who advocates for inmates and their families, says inmates both in and out of solitary confinement were participating in the strike against what he calls "cruel and unusual punishment."
On Tuesday, the sheriff's office said it could not discount the fact that the inmates in maximum-security facilities have been accused of "some of the most violent crimes imaginable," though it has medical protocols in place to monitor the inmates' health. They also said in the statement that they would continue to prepare food for the inmates at the Main Jail.
The strikers had five demands: an end to "meaningless classification reviews and biased appeal process," solitary confinement, practices of denying clothing to inmates, "jail profiteering," recidivism and "misappropriation" of Inmate Welfare Funds.
It's unclear exactly how many inmates were participating in the strike.
Beth Willon of KQED contributed to this report.