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KCBS In Depth: Bay Area Jails & Prisons

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Prison bars, generic, crime

(CBS)

KCBS In Depth
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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— After a 32-year career in law enforcement, including a record eight terms as sheriff, San Francisco County Sheriff Mike Hennessey is retiring from the police force.

“I’ll miss the interactions with other public officials on the issues of criminal justice” he said.

He moved to San Francisco from Iowa in 1970 to attend University of San Francisco’s Law School. In 1979 he ran and won in his first election for county sheriff, winning the first of his consecutive terms.

KCBS Interviews Outgoing SF Sheriff Mike Hennessey:

When asked why he’s retiring his uniform, Hennessey said it’s been a full career and that he’s young enough to have good health for other activities.

“I didn’t want to sign up for another four years, which is what it would take if you run for re-election,” he said.

The outgoing sheriff remains modest about his accomplishments and acknowledges that there is still room for improvement on the force.

While he’s proud of the jail programs that have been initiated over the years, he does have regrets about the inability to establish a significant vocational training program in county jails.

“That may change,” he said because of the 2011 state prison realignment program. “County jails are going to get prisoners serving longer terms.”

Hennessey said under the “Governor and legislature” approved realignment plan that San Francisco’s prison population has increased and that more inmates stay in custody on parole matters.

“In the past, the longest time you could serve in the county jail on a sentence was one year.”

He did mention that overall the realignment program should accomplish it’s overall goal of reducing the state’s overcrowded prison problem.

As far as preparedness goes, he said San Francisco and several other counties have empty beds and space to take on extra prisoners, but that it’s a different story for San Mateo County, already running at 140 percent.

Hennessey attributes SF’s empty beds to the new county jail built in San Bruno in 2006, but also because of the drug lab that was shut down in 2010 when hundreds of cases were dismissed when a lab tech was accused of tampering and theft of evidence.

“Drug cases are the fuel that drive the engine of the criminal justice system. San Francisco does not have a current operating drug lab,” he said explaining why fewer drug cases are being prosecuted in the City.

However, he does feel optimistic that the drug lab will get back to an up and running position and that its current status is only temporary.

Other accomplishments include the prison’s organic gardening program for inmates to which he defends to critics by saying that, “the prisoners will eventually get out”. He then poses the question of what kind of reintegrated citizen would you like to deal with? One that’s been treated badly, or one that’s been given hope?

You can hear KCBS In Depth, a weekly half-hour news interview, Saturdays at 5:30a.m. and Sundays at 8:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. on KCBS All News 740AM and 106.9FM.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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