SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Legislation authored by San Francisco Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer and being backed by District Attorney Chesa Boudin and Public Defender Mano Raju to close the jail at the Hall of Justice within six months is steps closer to fruition.
On Thursday, the Board of Supervisors’ Government Audit and Oversight Committee approved the legislation unanimously, allowing it to move to the full board for a vote as early as next Tuesday.
The legislation, first introduced two weeks ago by Fewer, requires the city to close the 385-bed County Jail 4 at the dilapidated Hall of Justice at 850 Bryant St. by Nov. 1, and to provide a deadline for reducing the jail population in a safe manner in order to prevent transferring inmates to jails in other counties, like Alameda County.
City officials and criminal justice reform advocates have long called for the closure of the outdated and seismically unsafe facility, and back in February Sheriff Paul Miyamoto unveiled a plan to close it by July 2021.
Miyamoto’s plan, however, called for moving up to 100 inmates to Alameda County’s Santa Rita Jail unless the city agreed to much-needed repairs to San Francisco’s County Jail 2.
According to Fewer, now is the right time to close the jail as the city’s overall jail population is at historic lows due to the coronavirus pandemic, reporting just 696 inmates citywide as of Thursday.
“San Francisco jails hold some of our most vulnerable people:
those who are unhoused, those with mental illness, people of color and young people, and trans people,” Fewer said during a virtual news conference ahead of the meeting.
“I want to be clear that I believe individuals should be held accountable for harm done, but I also believe in second chances. I believe in community support for people who have been neglected by our society and I believe in not using jails as mental health facilities,” she said.
“There’s a consensus among our public safety partners, that the closure of County Jail 4 is imperative. It is seismically unsafe and sewage spills have resulted in multi-million-dollar settlements,” Boudin said.
Boudin, who won election last year, promised during his campaign to close the jail if elected.
Raju, whose office helped Fewer craft the legislation, said, “This is an absolutely historic moment we should all take pride in.”
He added, “This COVID-19 crisis had shined a light on how important it is to be looking at our systems, including our public safety systems, through a public health lens, always. And that’s what this ordinance symbolizes.”
Fewer said her office has been working with the sheriff’s office on amendments since she first introduced the legislation. In particular, it’s been amended to be silent on whether a new jail is built in the city to replace County Jail 4.
Additionally, Fewer said she’s advocating for repairs at County Jail 2 on behalf of the sheriff’s office.
Miyamoto has said closing County Jail 4 could save the city more than $10 million annually in operating costs.