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Inmates of Santa Clara County Jails File Class Action Lawsuit to Enjoin the Department of Corrections

On Tuesday, February 15, 2005, four inmates in Santa Clara County Jails—represented by attorneys from Public Interest Law Firm and Fenwick & West LLP—filed a class action complaint in Superior Court against the Santa Clara County Department of Corrections for the improper administration of a fund intended to benefit all county inmates.

The suit alleges that the Inmate Welfare Fund, a fund created by statute primarily for the benefit, education and welfare of the inmates of Santa Clara County jails, is being improperly administered by the Department of Corrections in violation of Penal Code Section 4025 and the Department's duties as trustees of the fund. According to the complaint, monies that should be allocated to the Inmate Welfare Fund are being improperly diverted to the General Fund, and services the Department of Corrections is required to pay for from the General Fund, such as guard salaries, are being charged to the Inmate Welfare Fund. The result is severe cut backs in already sparse services to inmates.

In the past, the Inmate Welfare Fund has provided funding for important education programs like conflict resolution, domestic violence prevention and substance abuse prevention. These programs benefit the inmates and the community alike, helping sentenced inmates become productive members of the community when they have finished their jail terms and providing pretrial detainees with educational and other opportunities while they await trial. The Inmate Welfare Fund has also funded services that assist inmates and their families through organizations like Friends Outside. The complaint seeks the restoration of misallocated and misspent funds and an injunction requiring proper administration of the Fund.

"Because the Department of Corrections has unlawfully used money from the Inmate Welfare Fund to fund things like expensive guard and administrative positions, programs that help inmates succeed once they return to the community have been drastically cut," said Kyra Kazantzis, directing attorney for the Public Interest Law Firm. "This lawsuit is about making sure that inmates are not deprived of the programs and services that will help them become productive citizens once they are integrated back into our community."

For more information regarding the class action, please contact Saundra Riley of Fenwick & West, LLP, at 650.335.7170 or sriley@fenwick.com.