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Tear Gas in Santa Clara County Jails

Tear gas and chemical weapons used by Office of the Sheriff in Santa Clara County jails

Tear gas is a type of military equipment as defined in California state law (AB 481).  AB 481 requires that the local governing body, i.e. the Board of Supervisors for county offices, departments, and agencies, to approve each type of military equipment by means of an ordinance before that type of military equipment can be acquired and/or used.  AB 481 also stipulates annual reporting requirements.

The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office Military Equipment Use Report, which covers the period from May 1, 2022 to March 31, 2023, shows that tear gas was used in jails 17 times.

Tear gas is banned in wars and should not be used on residents and civilians.  Asian Law Alliance opposes the use of tear gas and chemical weapons in jails.  Join us to voice your opposition or concerns in the Board of Supervisors meeting on September 19, 2023.  A sample script is at the end of this page.

Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors meeting

Date:  September 19, 2023

Time:  The agenda item will be heard no earlier than 10:30am.

Location: Board of Supervisors Chambers, 70 W. Hedding St., San Jose, CA 95110

Remote participation

Agenda item number: 9

Click here to see the agenda to find out details about the mechanisms of delivering public comments.

Note to public speakers

If there are 15 or more speakers, i.e. in-person and Zoom altogether, the Committee allows only 1 minute per speaker.  If there are fewer than 15 speakers, the Committee allows 2 minutes per speaker.  Please plan accordingly.

In-person speakers should fill out a Request to Speak Form.

Zoom speakers should click on the “Raise Hand” button when the agenda item of interest is discussed.

Sample script and talking points

Hi, my name is ___________ from _________ (org, district).  I strongly urge you to join us in our stance against chemical weapons like tear gas in our jails, and address the larger issue of true alternatives to incarceration described in De-Bug’s Community Proposal to ATI.

[Select talking point(s) from below or use your own talking points.]

  • In the penal code which authorizes involuntary medication for incarcerated serious mental health folks, it states “it is the intent of the Legislature to recognize the lack of community-based beds and the inability of many facilities to accept transfers from correctional facilities”. This is not enough and the county can invest in non-carceral treatment instead of the use of military chemical weapons.
  • In OCLEM’s Report on the Sheriff’s Office Use of Tear Gas on Mental Health Folks it states, “individuals involved in these incidents are housed in the County’s jails rather than a more therapeutic setting.” The county should not approve military chemical weapons to be used on mental health folks. Instead, mental health folks determined by a psychiatrist to be treated with involuntary medication should not belong in a jail; they belong in non-carceral treatment.
  • The Sheriff has sufficient staff, training, and weapons, why add chemical weapons to be used on vulnerable populations?
  • Chemical weapons can cause not only intense pain, but also blistering of the skin, respiratory arrest, and even an increased risk of strokes and heart attacks.

I strongly urge you to oppose chemical weapons like tear gas in our jails.

Thank you.