Suit Filed Against County Jailers

February 16, 2005

A class-action lawsuit filed Tuesday accuses Santa Clara County jailers of gutting inmate education and rehabilitation programs while illegally using millions of dollars intended for them to pay for staffing costs and other required services. Attorneys with the Public Interest Law Firm of San Jose and Fenwick & West filed the suit in Santa Clara County Superior Court on behalf of four inmates and all others incarcerated in the county's jails.

The lawsuit alleges the county Department of Correction, which runs the sixth-largest jail system in California with an average of more than 4,000 inmates a day, has misspent more than $6.2 million from an "inmate welfare fund'' while cutting more than $1.1 million in programs.

The suit asks a judge to order county jailers to stop illegally spending and diverting inmate welfare funds and to restore misspent funding. "The misallocation of funds and misuse of funds really is impacting a very vulnerable sector of society," said Fenwick & West partner Virginia DeMarchi, whose firm provided free assistance to the public interest group.

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