SF County Jails to Replace Security Systems

SAN FRANCISCO — Although San Francisco decided to turn down SB 863 jail funding and not move forward with a $380 million to plan to replace the city’s aging jails in the Hall of Justice, its current jails still face severe issues with regard to security.

Opponents to the construction of a new facility highlighted the fact that the city’s average daily jail population decreased to about 1,300 inmates, while the city’s jail capacity is more than 2,400 (although two of the city’s six jails are currently closed).

In summer 2014, security cameras and control panels started failing at the Seventh Street County Jails No. 1 and 2, which contain an intake center and a new, pod-style, 392-bed jail, respectively, according to SF Weekly. This led former Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi to declare an official state of emergency so that the city could allot $1.1 million to make quick fixes.

While things have been better since those improvements, Sheriff Vicki Hennessy, who became the city’s first female sheriff on Jan. 8, wrote a letter to city officials on Jan. 22, stating that “many of the basic security functions of the facility are still not complete.” Currently, a new alarm system, security cameras and the electronics that control the doors are all being replaced at an unknown cost, reported SF Weekly. Brighton, Colo.-based Sierra Detention Systems and San Jose, Calif.-based Alta Consulting Services are the two contractors working on the project. Repair contracts are not being put out to bid as the project could compromise jail security.

While no one has escaped from County Jail No. 2 — although an inmate escaped from the problematic Hall of Justice last year — the lack of security raises concerns about 2015 incidents such as an “apparent suicide” in County Jail No. 2, per SFist.com, and a case in which jail guards forced inmates to fight each other in County Jail No. 4, according to SF Gate.