By Dillon Kim, Journalism Guild Writer
San Francisco Mayor London Breed ordered City Hall to close down the Hall of Justice, including its jail, by July 2021 because the jail is structurally vulnerable to earthquakes.
This deadline has prompted city officials to try to find alternatives to rehouse the 300 inmates that are currently housed there, according to the San Francisco Examiner. While it searches for a place for the inmates, the city is already relocating the other departments also located within the Hall of Justice.
Possible rehousing options for inmates include renovating the currently unused jail in nearby San Bruno and transferring the inmates to Alameda County’s Santa Rita jail.
A member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Matt Haney said, “I do not support sending folks to Alameda County. I don’t support building a new jail. I do support a plan for us to move forward and close this facility as soon as possible in an effective way.”
Haney and other supervisors think that a better solution would be to find alternatives to incarceration. Indeed, in 2015 the City of San Francisco made a commitment to seek alternatives to incarceration, establishing the Work Group to Re-envision the Jail Replacement Project. Matt Haney said,
“I don’t support building a new jail. I do support a plan for us to move forward and close this facility as soon as possible in an effective way”
The MacArthur Foundation awarded $2 million to District Attorney George Gascon’s office to address racial disparities in jails and reducing the inmate population to 1,044 within two years. Alternatives to incarceration can save substantial money. It costs the city an average of $250.11 per day to incarcerate an individual.
Mayor London Breed said if the inmate population doesn’t decline by the time of the jail closure, the inmates will be sent “to an alternative facility on a temporary basis.”
Haney stated he was “con- cerned about a lack of a plan” regarding Mayor Breed’s announcement. He continued, “Without having a plan, my fear is that the result of that is trying to back us into some- thing that we should not be doing. The sheriff herself said that it would be horrible for us to send people over to Alameda County. Then why are we considering that? Why are we acting as though that is a viable option in any way?”
Haney apparently believes that Mayor Breed’s “alternative facility” is the Alameda County Jail located across the bay in Alameda County.
Board members think the Santa Rita facility is a bad alternative in part because it further distances incarcerated individuals from their families and attorneys.
Sandra Fewer, the board’s Chairperson of the Budget Committee, said she is “look- ing to identify strategies to further reduce the jail population” and is seeking alternatives “to avoid a scenario where we have to send any people to Santa Rita or jails out of the county.”