SAN FRANCISCO—On December 15, 2015 the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to reject an $80 million state grant for the construction of a new jail that would cost an estimated $240 million to build. The new jail would replace the current facilities at the Hall of Justice at 850 Bryant Street, which have been deemed unsafe and decrepit by city officials.

On Wednesday, January 6, San Francisco Supervisors David Campos, Malia Cohen, Jane Kim, and District Attorney George Gascon made an announcement in the Hall of Justice proposing to allocate the money toward a new mental health treatment facility.

The decision to build a mental health facility is based on a model established in Miami, Florida, where patients are evaluated and provided with specialized programs for low-level offenders. Gascon stated that the proposed center would include rapid mental health assessment, outpatient treatment facilities, and secure facilities for patients waiting for treatment beds. The facility would also assist inmates and outpatients with the process of transitioning and acclimating to life post treatment. The idea is that the facility would be close to the courthouse, as well as other treatment facilities and the patients’ family members. 

Gascon stated an estimated 40 percent of the 1,300 inmates currently in the county jail suffer from mental health problems. “I believe the data does support building a mental health facility,” said Gascon.

According to Gascon, the proposed behavioral center would not be eligible for state funding. Legislators representing San Francisco are in the process of researching other potential sources of funding provided by the state of California.

City supervisors are currently working to determine ideal locations for the facility to be constructed, with potential options being nearby San Francisco General Hospital. Supervisor Kim stated that San Francisco has demonstrated it can do things better by reducing incarceration rates, “We have turned down money to build a jail because we can build something better.”