San Francisco Moves Forward with Jail Plan

SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted yesterday to seek $80 million in state funding, which the city would supplement with an additional $160 million, to pay for a new 384-bed jail. Board President London Breed supported the decision in the board’s 7-3 vote, but said that the jail needs to be smaller and cost less or she would not support it in the future.

The project is part of a larger plan to move workers out of the city’s Hall of Justice, which has been deemed seismically unsound. It has faced a lot of backlash from city residents who believe that San Francisco should spend more on rehabilitative-type programming than funding another jail. However, city officials say the fact that the existing building is seismically unsafe means that a new one will be needed in the near future, reported the San Francisco Chronicle.

The city’s jail population with its six jails has decreased in the past decade from about 2,300 inmates in the mid-1990s to 1,285 this year. Currently, about 350 inmates are incarcerated at the Hall of Justice. Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, who oversees the jail, said that if the city population declines to 1,000 and stays there that the city could avoid building a new jail, reported the San Francisco Chronicle.

Because the largest driver of the jail population relates to drug offenses and changes to criminal justice policy have resulted in fewer drug-related crimes being prosecuted, it is possible that the inmate population could continue to decline.

Regardless of whether or not the jail is built, both sides of the debate agree that inmates should be moved out of the existing jail structure. One suggestion is to transport them to an existing facility in nearby San Bruno, but that structure also needs seismic updates, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Mayor Ed Lee’s administration added that if the jail is not built, the money it saves will likely go to other infrastructure projects, not to programming like several citizens want.