The Santa Barbara County Sheriff ’s Department is investigating the cause of seven fights that occurred within a two-week period last month at the Santa Barbara County Jail.
An altercation involving six inmates broke out mid-July and became the sixth brawl at the facility in 10 days.
The incident occurred before a jail-wide lockdown — a period where inmates are temporarily confined to their cells and certain visitation rights are restricted — was about to be lifted. The most recent fight took place on a jail transportation bus en route from the facility to a courthouse in Santa Maria and began after four of the 40 inmates allegedly instigated the incident.
According to Drew Sugars, Santa Barbara County Sheriff ’s Department Public Information Officer, detectives believe the fights might be gang-affiliated.
“There does appear to be some connection with prison gangs,” Sugars said. “The inmates are coming back and forth through state prison, and the contact and that culture makes its way to into jail culture. What’s felt in the state prison system is felt in jails here.”
Sugars said the Santa Barbara County Jail has increasingly housed higherlevel pre-sentenced offenders including individuals charged with rape, assault, murder and other serious offences.
“There is a changing jail population,” Sugars said. “We’ve boiled away lower offenders — 75 to 80 percent of inmates are pre-sentenced inmates. It’s a different group of people.”
Although detectives will continue investigating the incident, Sugars said the fights have subsided due to staff efforts and further lockdowns.
“The last few days have been okay — we hope it continues,” Sugars said.