Updated: Jan 21
Why does Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones spark outrage across Sacramento? He and his department are among those most responsible for assaults to human dignity, civil rights, and social justice in the county.
Jones oversees 2,084 staff (over half of which are armed deputies) and the county’s two jails (Main Jail and Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center). His personal actions and his institutions perpetrate a pattern of harm aggressively targeting Black and Brown people, women, immigrants, and people experiencing mental illness and/or homelessness. There is also evidence of a culture of dishonesty and corruption.
He has resisted efforts for transparency and accountability from community groups and government institutions alike. Yet the Board of Supervisors (except Phil Serna) continue to vote for his obscenely bloated $277 million budget, giving him far more of
our money than any other County department. A steady series of lawsuits cost taxpayers millions more. We have receipts for days (literally, check out this 380 pg. report on him) but here are some top findings:
Conditions in the jail that Jones runs are inhumane, and more unsafe than ever due to COVID-19. A class-action lawsuit details the deplorable, inhumane conditions and treatment in county jails. These squalid conditions form a COVID-19 tinderbox, as people lack access to cleaning supplies, social distancing, testing, and masks.
The Sacramento Sheriff Department (SSD) targets Black and Brown people for stops, arrests, and incarceration. SSD regularly faces lawsuits and pays settlements for excessive use of force, brutality, and shootings of people, including people experiencing mental health crises. The county has paid more than $16 million in SSD excessive force damages in the last decade. In addition, in 2019 taxpayers paid $25 million for a settlement after a sheriff’s deputy crashed his patrol SUV into a car and left a 10-year-old girl with permanent brain damage. We uplift the names of the people the Sheriff department has killed – including Mikel McIntyre, Justin Prescott, Adriene Ludd, Gabriella Nevarez, Ryan Ellis, Marshall Miles – and encourage you to read and honor their stories.
SSD contracted with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) until 2018, allowing ICE to detain over 1,000 immigrants from across the country in county jails. SSD has broken state law (SB 54) by continuing to cooperate with ICE, sharing their databases and allowing ICE inside jail. In 2018, the Sheriff transferred 28 people who faced a few days in jail for DUIs to ICE.
The Sheriff has ties to white supremacist, anti-immigrant group. In 2015, Jones attended an anti-immigration reform event, ‘Hold Their Feet to the Fire,’ held by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in DC. FAIR is classified as a “hate group” with ties to white supremacist and eugenicist groups, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. He was the only California sheriff to attend the event and was joined by Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. FAIR paid for his airfare and hotel, apparently in violation of Sacramento County rules and Sheriff’s Department policy prohibiting employees from accepting gifts.
Men found guilty of sexually harassing and discriminating against women, including Scott Jones, remain in positions of power in the Sacramento Sheriff Department. At least one sheriff deputy has spoken out about how Scott Jones sexually harassed her, substantiated by inappropriate emails from Jones and his own admission of kissing her. Four other women who were former sheriff’s deputies entered a six-year legal battle against SSD after they suffered retaliation from their bosses after complaining about discrimination and harassment. The Sheriff’s Department paid $10 million of taxpayer funds to these deputies. Though the court found Scott Jones and his inner circle of men guilty of these charges, they remain in top positions of power. There are other settlements of inadequate investigations of guards raping incarcerated women.
The Sheriff enables gun violence by issuing a record numbers of concealed-carry weapon permits, many without proper background checks. A state audit from 2015-2017 found he issued 6,336 concealed carry permits, more than any other sheriff in the state. It found that SSD didn’t comply with their own rules on issuing gun permits. For example, one-third of the applications the audit examined lacked complete information about background checks. As assemblyman Kevin McCarty said, “Sheriff Scott Jones has maliciously neglected his sworn duty to follow the law when issuing [concealed carry weapon] licenses.”
There is evidence of an entrenched culture of dishonesty and corruption in the Sheriff’s Department. Between 2012 and 2014, the Sheriff took $63,400 in donations from vendors and bidders, and then requested to award millions of dollars in contracts to many of them. A Sacramento Bee review from 2014 found that “Sacramento County sheriff’s deputies accepted free meals worth thousands of dollars from Redflex, the private company that operates the county’s red-light intersection cameras, then recommended the county choose that company over several competitors for a new red-light contract worth up to $11.8 million”. In recent years, the Sheriff has submitted requests to the Board of Supervisors to issue contracts at amounts much higher than the vendor providing the service had quoted.
The Sheriff has denied transparency and accountability throughout his career – and the Board of Supervisors lets him get away with it. Most recently, in 2018, he locked the Inspector General out of Sheriff facilities, preventing him from completing an independent review of the sheriff deputy shooting of Mikel McIntyre after his family filed a wrongful death lawsuit. The County Grand Jury called for oversight of Jones because Sacramento residents deserve a transparent and accountable government. The County Board of Supervisors disagreed, and refused the Grand Jury’s request to create a county oversight commission of the DA and Sheriff.
Despite all this, the Sacramento Sheriff’s Office received 37% of taxpayer money ($276 million) in 2019. This obscene amount is much more than other departments that provided crucial services, such as Health Services which only gets 5%, Human Assistance Aid Payments (3%), and other social services (3% of General Funds). The Sheriff’s budget has increased 18% over the past 10 years, while Health and Human Services have suffered major budget cuts. The Board of Supervisors intends to continue maintaining and increasing the Sheriff’s budget, at the expense of Health and Human Services.
What can we do?
1. Defund the Sheriff. Write your Supervisor and speak out during public comment at BOS meetings. Take the people’s budget survey when it’s released to share what you think the county should invest in for your community to be healthy and thrive.
2. Spread the word, music and art to defund the Sheriff. Here’s some musical inspiration from Justice LA. Send us local music and art about defunding the Sheriff you’ve made or seen so we can showcase it!
3. Support “moving the vote” to increase voter turnout. The Sheriff is elected for 4 year terms, and elections are held on gubernatorial election years, which have much less voter turnout then presidential elections. In the last presidential election (November 2016), almost 75% of Sacramento’s registered voters cast a ballot, compared to fewer than 42% who turned out on June 2018 when Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones and Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert were re-elected. Overall, less than 20% of registered voters in the county (mostly from Folsom, Orangevale and Rancho Murietta) re-elected Jones. Community organizations proposed moving the election cycles of the sheriff and the district attorney to presidential election years to increase voter turnout. However, on July 28, 2020 the Board of Supervisors voted against making elections more accessible to more voters because they want to “study it more.”
Achieving these goals and creating the conditions for social justice will take large-scale, sustained action – join us to make it happen!