SAN FRANCISCO–On December 15, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to reject an $80 million grant from the State Public Works Board to fund the construction of the proposed San Francisco jail. It would have cost an estimated $240 million to build the 384-bed facility for the San Francisco County jail.
Board of Supervisors President London Breed proposed a plan suggesting alternative solutions to incarceration to identify ways of assisting people who suffer from personal circumstances such as drug/alcohol dependency and mental illness who may not have the ability to make bail. Breed emphasized that the new system should prioritize mental health and substance abuse treatment, and “less on the system that exaggerates the cycle of crime and recidivism.” According to Breed, the jail proposal signifies a return to an era of mass incarceration, which is “an era San Francisco is trying to leave behind.”
Though Breed does not support the construction of a new jail, she deemed the existing jails on 850 Bryant Street to be unsafe in their current conditions. Breed has suggested the city use state funding to purchase land to accommodate city departments that are tenants within 850 Bryant Street. There is also discussion of possibly renovating the existing jails.
Supervisor Scott Wiener advocated tabling the issue, but he reminded the board of the “real crime problem” in San Francisco, and stated that there would have to be alternatives in place of the removal of current jail beds.
SF Mayor Edward Lee has stated his support of the new jail due to the city’s demand for more jail beds, which are currently in “unworkable” conditions.
The board’s rejection of the $80 million state grant could mean the city could potentially lose the money all together if there is no compromise to reallocate the funds. Breed stated that she is optimistic about the board being able to reach a consensus without losing the grant funding. The Board of Supervisors is expected to review recommendations of alternatives by March 2016.