SAN FRANCISCO—San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee announced on Thursday, June 22, along with Board of Supervisors President London Breed that $27 million in new investments that will allow alternatives to the jailing of low-level offenders and improve services for individuals suffering from mental health and addiction. Funding will expand pretrial diversion programs and improve behavioral health systems
“We will always prioritize the public safety and protection of our residents,” said Mayor Edwin M. Lee. “But we must ensure that no one spends a moment in jail longer than absolutely necessary and that we continue to use our robust community programs to ensure residents get the help they need to stay in their communities. These investments will help break cycles of incarceration and poverty while providing appropriate services for our residents.”
According to a press release from the Mayor’s Office, the new investment package includes $14 million in the 2017-2018 Fiscal Year budget and $13 million for the 2018-2019 Fiscal Year budget. Those funds are in addition to the $120 million San Francisco spends annually on similar initiatives, such as prevention and reentry services to serve at-risk populations, crisis intervention programs and neighborhood courts.
The extra funding will pay for expanded pre-trial diversion and electronic monitoring programs, additional staff members at the Public Defender’s Office and expanded rebooking hours through the District Attorney’s Office. The programs are aimed to reduce the population at the San Francisco County Jail, which is an aging, seismically-unsafe building.
“Two years ago, we rejected building a new jail and begun a necessary process to re-envisioning real alternatives to incarceration,” said Supervisor London Breed. “We are now seeing our budget reflect positive investments in pre-trial diversion and alternatives to jail. Instead of ineffective policies that contribute to the cycle of mass incarceration, this investment is a promise that we are committed to moving toward helping more people avoid jail by receiving the services they need to contribute to society rather than being locked away.”
The Mayor’s budget will include new funding to expand pre-trial diversion programs, helping to speed up the process that allows individuals to be released under their own recognizance. Additional investments will also fund two new attorneys and an investigator at the Public Defender’s Office, who will work with the San Francisco Pretrial Diversion Project to ensure continuity of services for individuals who are released. Another $1 million annually will be added to increase the Sheriff Department’s electronic monitoring program, enabling more individuals to be under supervision services instead of being jailed for low-level offenses.
“The additional funding included in the Mayor’s budget for pretrial services will allow Pretrial Diversion to more quickly and efficiently process applications for pretrial release of individuals who, with court approval and appropriate supervision, can safely remain in the community while awaiting trial,” said Sheriff Vicki Hennessy. “The funding included to expand the District Attorney’s Intake/Charging Unit to support weekend rebooking reduces time in custody for individuals who will ultimately not be charged with a crime. Both investments are in keeping with the recommendations of the Re-Envisioning the Jail Replacement Work Group to reduce San Francisco’s jail population.”
The investment package will assist in paying for weekend rebooking hours at the District Attorney’s Intake/Charging Unit, ensuring that individuals who are not going to be charged spend no more time in jail than necessary. The new investments include a two-year, $5.9 million initiative for the Law-Enforcement Assisted Diversion program (LEAD-SF). This innovative, cross-departmental collaboration will offer services, rather than arrest, for low-level drug offenders. It will help pay for expanded hours at the Community Assessment and Services Center (CASC), a one-stop community corrections reentry facility for formerly incarcerated adults returning to San Francisco County.
“The Adult Probation Department is excited to be a partner in the Mayor’s citywide justice initiatives,” said Chief Adult Probation Officer Karen Fletcher. “Under the leadership and support of Mayor Lee, who recognizes the need for comprehensive criminal justice reform and reentry services, the Mayor’s Office has created space for criminal justice partners to foster a safety network of wrap around services for people exiting jails and prisons, and more generally for people with criminal convictions. Having a 24-hour reentry center (CASC) will allow public safety partners to work together to serve our City’s most vulnerable residents.”
The new investments include close to $16 million for behavioral health services, helping San Francisco residents suffering from severe mental illness and substance use disorder avoid a revolving door of jail and hospitalization.
On June 1, Mayor Lee presented his two-year balanced budget, proposing a $10 billion outline for Fiscal Year 2017-2018 and a $10 billion outline for Fiscal Year 2018-2019. Mayor Lee has made homelessness and harm reduction a centerpiece of his proposed budget.