Community Leaders to Gather at Toxic Jail Site on Earth Day, Call on San Mateo County to Abandon Controversial Project

Media Advisory—Photo Opportunity

When: Monday, April 22nd; 11am

What: In commemoration of Earth Day, community organizers will descend on the new San Mateo County jail site in hazmat suits to illustrate the toxic nature of the jail expansion plan.  A press conference will follow.

Where: 70 Chemical Way, Redwood City

Contact:  Isaac Ontiveros, Californians United for a Responsible Budget

Ph. 510 444 0484

Background:

The site of the proposed new San Mateo County jail was so permeated by volatile compounds that the Department of Toxic Substances Control declared the land too hazardous for residential use, causing the county to engage in a massive and costly cleanup of the site. Community pressure succeeded in winning a more thorough cleanup of the site than was originally intended, but there are still unanswered questions about the impacts of living on the land for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

In addition to the harm associated with housing people on contaminated land, community members will be discussing the social toxicity of imprisonment, addressing the negative impacts on mental, physical, family, and community health. Tying in with Earth Day events throughout the area, jail opponents will wear protective hazardous materials suites and make the point that this jail project is toxic, with the majority of those locked in the jail coming from low-income communities of color—the same communities faced with the negative impacts of environmental racism.

A report from San Mateo County’s own manager and recommended by the county’s Health System, outlines alternatives to building a new jail, calling for expanding existing programs such as residential treatment for mental illness or drug detox, alternative sentencing, mental health programs and re-entry services. The Health System’s detailed recommendations would take three to six months to get up and running, serve 2,100 residents and cost the county $8.38 million a year. The new jail would not open until 2015 and will cost $160 million to build and at least $30 million a year to operate.

Expert speakers on the social, financial, and environmental impacts of the jail project, including impacts of the jail on immigrant communities, will be available for interviews.  Colorful banners and costumes will also make the press conference visually stunning.

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