The San Francisco Sheriff’s Department’s Five Keys Charter High School was named a finalist for the prestigious Innovations in American Government Award by Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
“This is a huge honor made possible by our visionary and hardworking staff, who are pushing the envelope to meaningfully lower recidivism,” Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi wrote in his June newsletter.
“Historically, within the U.S. prison and jail systems, opportunities prove few in providing ex-offenders hope through a working skill. However, those times are changing, as evidenced by the durable reach of the SFSD’s Five Keys Charter High School whose common sense approach to improving public safety is by not letting incarcerated minds decay,” he added.
Founded in 2003, Five Keys is the first public charter high school in the U.S. to operate in an adult detention facility. Its impact has reached beyond the jail walls to 21 community centers throughout San Francisco and 13 in Los Angeles, serving over 9,000 students annually, the sheriff noted.
The newsletter reports that the recidivism rate for inmates who go through the Five Keys program is 28 percent based on re-arrest for a new felony charge — 33 percent lower than the statewide recidivism rate for fiscal year 2008-2009.
“Providing inmates with an education helps create safer communities, reduces tax dollars spent on incarceration and affords the incarcerated with the skills they’ll need to rejoin communities and their families upon release,” the sheriff wrote.
Five Keys won the 2015 Pioneer Institute Better Government Competition and was awarded the Hart Vision Award for Charter School of the Year (Northern California) in 2014. The San Francisco Sheriff’s Department’s Resolve to Stop the Violence Program won the Innovations in American Government Award in 2004.
San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi has announced his plans to outfit the deputy sheriffs in the county jail system with body cameras.
“There is no other jail system in California with body cameras,” Mirkarimi said. “I believe this will be the wave in the future.”
Thirty body cameras will be worn by deputy sheriffs on all shifts at San Francisco County Jail #4, announced the sheriff. The devices will record the interactions between deputy sheriffs and inmates to ensure the safety of inmates and to protect deputies against unfounded allegations.
The sheriff said the pilot program is the first of its kind in the state. He said the department has assumed a leadership role in creating policies and protocols concerning the use of the devices, such as rules governing application and use, data storage, privacy rights, ramifications for failure to adhere, personnel training and public records requests.
Mirkarimi said other efforts are also necessary to address abuse of power.
“People under our lock and key deserve respect and humane treatment or else we risk fueling the criminality we strive to abate,” Mirkarimi said. “I don’t believe body cameras alone satisfy the greater call unless they are accompanied with modernized training, policy reforms that dissuade misconduct and the political will to correct abuse of power.”
Mirkarimi pieced together funds for the body camera pilot program from the sheriff’s department’s budget after requesting funds from the city budget in 2013 and 2014 to no avail.
The pilot program will launch this summer, the sheriff said.
Jane Kim Looks for ‘Smarter Ways’ to Run County Jails
San Francisco sheriff’s officials say they are continuing to seek out and implement innovative ways to manage the county jail system.
The efforts are necessary in the wake of the state-wide Realignment, which confines many low-level felons in county jails instead of prison, and the nation-wide public sentiment against police brutality.
“We are looking for smarter ways to run our county jails. I’m here hopefully to learn more about the issues of incarceration from you guys,” said county Supervisor Jane Kim at a symposium inside San Quentin’s walls on June 26.
Kim, a civil rights attorney, is the first Korean-American elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
The San Francisco Sheriff’s Department holds several records and honors ways it manages the county jails, Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi said.
“It is well established that inmates who have the opportunity to learn both academics and skills while incarcerated have more opportunities when they leave,” said Mirkarimi in his June newsletter. “Jail is punishment, removal from society, but it can also be a time of self-improvement and self-reflection.”