Earlier than expected closure marks the third jail that San Francisco has closed in the last 10 years
San Francisco Mayor London N. Breed and Sheriff Paul Miyamoto announced today that County Jail #4, located on the 7th floor of the Hall of Justice, will close effective Saturday, September 5, 2020. Last year, Mayor Breed announced a plan to move incarcerated people out of the jail no later than July 2021. In May, the Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance authored by Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer that moved the proposed closure date to no later than November 1, 2020. Built in 1961, County Jail #4 is the third jail that the City will have closed since 2010.
“San Francisco has led the nation in advancing justice reforms for decades, and the closure of County Jail #4 is part of our broader efforts to shift resources towards alternatives to incarceration that are more effective at creating a safer society for us all,” said Mayor Breed. “Thanks to Sheriff Miyamoto’s leadership, we are able to move forward on closing the jail earlier than we originally planned. We need to continue to reform our criminal justice system to prevent crime in the first place, end the use of incarceration as an answer to social problems, and reduce recidivism. We are all safer if we invest in measures that address the root causes of the majority of criminal behavior. This includes keeping up our programs to divert people to services instead of incarceration, and offering pretrial diversion for those who do not pose a danger to themselves or others with our partners in the court and criminal justice system.”
“When I became Sheriff, I committed to closing County Jail #4. It had outlived its useful life and was seismically unsafe, putting the people in custody, Sheriff’s staff, contractors and the visiting public at risk,” said Sheriff Miyamoto. “We’re in a position to close early due to the efforts of Sheriff’s Office staff and our health care partners — even while continuing to meet the challenges of COVID-19. My staff has worked collaboratively and creatively and has remained focused on finding solutions for transitioning to a reduced living, work and visiting space while being responsive to advocates’ concerns. Sheriff’s deputies have exceeded expectations and performed their duties at an exceptional level of professionalism with attention to everyone’s health and safety.”
County Jail #4 is rated for 402 beds. Since the onset of COVID-19 in March and the corresponding reduction in jail population to limit exposure, County Jail #4’s census today is 77 people. Other San Francisco county jails currently have the capacity to absorb additional people in custody. People from County Jail #4 will be rehoused in either County Jail #5 in San Bruno (rated for 768 beds) or County Jail #2 at 425-7th Street in San Francisco (rated for 392 beds).
Since COVID-19 hit, jail and prison populations have been especially vulnerable. While San Francisco county jails have not been immune from the virus, Sheriff Miyamoto and his jail management team, working with Jail Health Services — a section of the Department of Public Health — have been a rare success story, working to limit COVID-19 exposure and prevent an outbreak in the jail. While the closure of County Jail #4 reduces custody space, the Sheriff’s Office has and continues to develop prevention and safety protocols to intercept and control the virus.
“I am thrilled that we will be closing County Jail 4 much earlier than expected, given the incredible safety and health hazards associated with this facility,” said Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer. “Our legislation significantly sped up the timeline for closure, and in the last few months the City has maintained a significant decrease in the jail population, ensuring the facility can be closed safely. Ultimately no one—not incarcerated people, sheriff deputies, or anyone else—should have to spend more time in this dilapidated building.”
“The closure of County Jail 4 has been a long time coming. After years of advocacy by San Francisco public defenders, members of the No New Jails Coalition, and many city leaders, I am very glad that we are finally closing this unsafe facility next week,” said San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju. “The COVID-19 crisis, coupled with the national Black Lives Matter movement, has shined a light on just how important it is for us to be looking at all of our systems, including our law enforcement institutions, through a public health lens as well as a racial justice lens. We have both the responsibility and the opportunity to reexamine our response to harm and the needs of our community by shrinking our jail system in every way possible, and closing County Jail 4 is a critical part of that process.”
“I am proud to fulfill our campaign promise to close County Jail #4 within my first year in office. My team worked hard to safely and dramatically reduce the jail population in San Francisco by carefully reviewing each and every person who was incarcerated,” said San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin. “We were able to reduce the jail population by approximately 40 percent by relying on incarceration as a last resort and working closely with our reentry partners to expedite safe release. This significant reduction in the jail population—all while crime rates declined—demonstrates that mass incarceration does not make us safer.”
“The closure of County Jail #4 is a critical milestone in retiring the Hall of Justice, one of the City’s most seismically deficient buildings,” said City Administrator Naomi M. Kelly, who chairs the City’s Capital Planning Committee. “Mayor Breed, Sheriff Miyamoto and the Board of Supervisors worked together to ensure the safety of San Francisco. Planning is currently underway to replace the Hall of Justice with a modern campus that meets our public safety needs.”
In October 2019, Mayor Breed announced a plan to move all incarcerated people out of County Jail #4 no later than July 2021. In May, the Board of Supervisors passed Ordinance 80-20, authored by Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer, which required the City to close County Jail #4 by November 1, 2020. The remaining administrative functions at 850 Bryant will be relocated by summer 2021.
For many years, San Francisco has had one of the nation’s lowest incarceration rates, which has been driven by the justice community’s commitment to pretrial diversion instead of incarceration. Mayor Breed’s significant investment in behavioral mental health and substance use beds along with new investments in pre-trial assessments and sentencing reforms will sustain and expand this commitment. Mayor Breed has also overseen a significant expansion of pretrial release services through the San Francisco Pretrial Diversion Project, support for the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program that redirects individuals to community‐based services, and the creation of a pretrial release unit at the Public Defender’s Office.
The closure of County Jail #4 is related to Mayor Breed’s ongoing efforts to redirect funding from the City’s law enforcement agencies and invest in San Francisco’s African-American community. The Mayor’s proposed budget acknowledges structural inequities resulting from generations of disinvestment and reinvests $120 million in funds over two years, predominately from the City’s law enforcement departments, towards efforts to repair the legacy of racially disparate policies on health, housing, and economic outcomes for African-Americans.