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Beatings, illegal strip searches continue at SF jails, says public defender

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After charges were dropped earlier this month against a former and two current San Francisco sheriff’s deputies allegedly linked to a jailhouse “fight club,” Public Defender Jeff Adachi said Wednesday the jailhouse abuse continues.

 According to Adachi’s office, several of their clients say that they routinely suffer beatings and illegal strip searches at the hands of deputies at both Jail #2, located at 425 Seventh St., and Jail #5, located at 1 Moreland Drive in San Bruno.

Adachi’s office Wednesday revealed a Jan. 16, 2019, letter to Sheriff Vicki Hennessy, in which Adachi files a formal complaint regarding what he says are:

“… deplorable conditions at the San Francisco jail and ongoing and repeated misconduct by SFSD deputies.”

Adachi alleges physical abuse against inmates happening at the San Bruno jail and unlawful strip searches happening at the Seventh Street jail:

“As I expressed in our conversation, our clients are fearful of retaliation for coming forward with their complaints. Despite their fear, some are prepared to publicly come forward with their complaints if necessary. As their attorney of record, it is my ethical duty to seek the appropriate action and relief on behalf of my clients, who have suffered emotional and physical abuse at the hands of members of the Sheriff’s Department.”

According to Adachi’s office, at least 15 allegations of abuse were made by inmates between September and November 2018.

In one case, a male inmate alleged a group of deputies knocked him down and then took turns kicking him while he was on the ground. He also said deputies twisted his arms behind his back, causing him to suffer swollen and bruised wrists.

The San Francisco Sheriff’s Department was not immediately available to comment.

On Tuesday, during The City’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Supervisor Shamann Walton said he wanted to hold a hearing about the sheriff’s department conducting its own investigation on the deputies charged for the alleged fight club, which ultimately led to the charges being dismissed.

Walton conceded that the sheriff’s department “lacks an oversight body,” and said he’d be calling on the city’s Department of Police Accountability and District Attorney George Gascon, as well as Hennessy and Adachi, to report on how claims of abuse at the hands of deputies were being addressed.

Walton said:

“These and other incidents are reasons why we need to make sure that there’s an independent body that investigates claims against the sheriff’s department and we’ll be calling a hearing to discuss data, and discuss what is happening with these cases and these incidents.”

On Feb. 1, the district attorney’s office dropped charges against former Deputy Scott Neu and current deputies Eugene Jones and Clifford Chiba because the sheriff’s department conducted its own criminal investigation into its deputies, unbeknownst to the Gascon’s Office.

During that investigation, sheriff’s department investigators used immunized statements from the deputies, which is unlawful, and then later moved to destroy evidence showing the statements were taken illegally.

The allegations against Chiba, Neu and Jones first came to light in 2015, when Adachi said an inmate’s family contacted him and said inmates were being forced to fight each other at Jail #4, located at 850 Bryant St., with deputies allegedly placing bets on the inmates.

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