SAN FRANCISCO─The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has decided to shut down the Juvenile Hall by the end of 2021. San Francisco is the first major city in the United States to make such a change.
The current facility located near Twin Peaks is a short-term youth detention facility for both the city and county of San Francisco. It has a maximum capacity of 132 and is open 24/7. The daily population for inmates in 2018 was 43. According to reports, the city spent about $300,000 per inmate despite the declining population and costs about $13 million per year to operate. The majority of individuals detained at the facility have not been charged with serious offenses.
According to the legislation put forth by Supervisors Matt Haney, Hillary Ronen, and Shamann Walton, the focus will shift from punishment to rehabilitation. Their proposal calls “to support community-based alternatives” that will be a non-institutional place of detention.
In the proposal, they cite mental health issues within youth in the system. Not only does the detention of minors add trauma by becoming more isolated from their support networks, it negatively impacts their cognitive development. They also cited a study conducted by Brown University and MIT that found that detaining youth increases their likelihood of being jailed again as an adult.
If the Juvenile Hall closes, offenders are expected to be taken to facilities outside of San Francisco. According to Mayor London Breed, this could lead to the city to paying those counties for each juvenile. The leader of the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Rev. Amos Brown opposes the proposal. He believes the legislation lacks a plan for the youth who must be detained and the current staff of the facility.
Supporters of the legislation, such as Supervisor Matt Haney states in regards to attacks to the staff, “The City built this facility, and for that reason it’s our responsibility to deal with it. Kids need treatment, support, education, community based, non-incarceration based opportunities. They need better than we are doing now.”
After the vote, Shamann Walton promptly tweeted:
“Today we made history and voted (10-1) to close our juvenile hall in SF and provide an alternative that allows our young people to truly have a chance at rehabilitation! I want to thank Supervisors Ronen and Haney (and our Teams), as well as our colleagues. Schools not prisons!”