On the heels of a long and contentious public hearing—stalled by protest and arrests—two weeks ago, today's Board of Supervisors meeting saw the city's supervisors unanimously reject the $380 million proposal to construction a new detention facility to replace the dilapidated jail at the Hall of Justice, 850 Bryant St.
Rather than simply dropping the jail plans and rejecting the $80 million in state funding, District 5 Supervisor London Breed, with the help of District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim, introduced amendments to the legislation that would allow the Department of Real Estate to continue pursuing the acquisition of $14.5 million adjacent to 850 Bryant St., and directed the Department of Health and Sheriff's Department to devise a diverse working group to identify what the local justice system needs—other than a new jail.
Breed's direction for the working group: Figure out how to combine the city's needs—including new space for the District's Attorney's Office and courts and greater investment in mental health and substance abuse services—in a way that could potentially take advantage of the state's $80 million.
"850 Bryant needs to come down, but more importantly we need to tear down the system of mass incarceration it presents," Breed said. "The plan before us today marks the return of an era of mass incarceration, an era San Francisco is trying to leave behind."
In their following statements, board members agreed with focusing on alternatives to mass incarceration and the need to raze the Hall of Justice.
Despite his agreement with the direction, Supervisor Wiener also noted that claims that San Francisco jails are half-empty are untrue. If the Hall of Justice is torn down and not replaced, he argued, the city's jail capacity will be 100-150 inmates above capacity. Wiener also warned that the state's mental health has "unraveled" and San Francisco can not expect financial support from the state or federal government.
After focusing on the community's strong opposition to the jail proposal and assuring that the current board will never approve a new jail, Campos touched on challenges ahead at the state and federal levels. "It’s not enough that we do this today. We need to not only rededicate ourselves to this effort ... alternatives at local level ... we need to focus on Sacramento," he said. "By saying 'no thank you' to Governor Brown and the state legislature, we need to say 'no thank you for this but we do need money for other things like housing, education and so many things our families in San Francisco need to stay here."
Breed expected the future working group to offer an alternative plan in February 2016.