The Board of Supervisors will vote today on whether to go after $80 million in state funding for the construction of a new county jail facility to replace the seismically unsound one we have at the Hall of Justice (850 Bryant Street). As the Chronicle reports, Supervisor London Breed is expected to be the swing vote on the very divided board, with the moderate block all wanting to build the new facility citing costs for retrofitting that are higher than construction of a new jail would be and the progressive block pushing back and saying the city doesn't need to build a new jail when our inmate population has been steadily declining.
There does seem to be some difficult logic here, with progressives arguing that money should be spent on more incarceration alternatives and rehabilitation programs instead, and the moderates arguing that we need a jail, and it's not rational to assume that we won't need one at all in the future if the current one is seismically problematic.
Jane Kim has penned an op-ed in anticipation of the vote, citing a $600 million pricetag for the new jail, and further citing figures for what it costs to incarcerate a low-risk individuals.
In San Francisco, a Vietnam War veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder was charged with arson for a fire caused by an aromatherapy candle. Because he couldn’t afford bail, he spent 300 days in jail before a jury found him not guilty. At $150 a day, his jail stay cost taxpayers $45,000. Housing and outpatient mental health treatment for a year would have cost $20,440, or $56 a day.
The Chronicle seems to be saying the new jail will cost $240 million ($80M in state funds combined with $160M from the city), while this No New SF Jail campaign cites construction cost figures of $290-$465 million.
Should Supervisor Breed decide to vote against the jail, it could mean the death of the project, and will likely result in an alternative plan though it's unclear how to solve the seismic problem for the safety of workers and inmates without a costly retrofit, or a new facility.
Currently, SF has 1,285 inmates in its six jails, with 350 of those at the Hall of Justice, marking a 33-year low, and down from a total of 2,300 inmates in the mid-1990s. Sheriff Mirkarimi says a new jail would not be necessary if the inmate population declines to under 1,000, meaning that all the inmates at the Hall of Justice could simply be relocated to the five other jails.
Whatever the ultimate pricetag, the current plan for a new Hall of Justice would increase the inmate capacity by 34 beds, to 384.
Mayor Ed Lee has said that even if the project dies, the money that would be spent on it would be redirected to other infrastructure projects, not to criminal rehabilitation programs.