Advocates Reject SF Controllers Jail Population Projections

For Immediate Release – May 29th, 2014

Contact: Emily Harris, CURB (510-435-1176)

San Francisco – Planners, policy experts and advocates blasted a report, released yesterday by the Controller, that suggests the need for between 63 and 601 more jail cells in the City. They note that the report includes no study of alternatives to incarceration or policy changes that would provide safer and more cost-effective outcomes for residents.

“The report fails to respond to clearly stated community needs, and places a deeply mistaken emphasis on imagined needs for additional jail space without ever stopping to consider the impacts of providing that jail space or, most importantly, proven alternatives, that unlike more jail space, would improve both public safety and community health — and for a lower cost than building the replacement jail,” said Raphael Sperry of Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility.

Advocates direct attention to the significant budget cuts that have hurt programs such as the SF Pretrial Diversion Project.

The Controller’s projections of the jail population suggest that recent efforts to reduce that population will end – or indeed have already ended – and that the advances of the last six years which have led to drops in the numbers of San Franciscans in jail of over five percent a year will halt. In fact, the “projected” jail population for 2013 appears to be more than 300 higher than the actual number of people in SF jails today (1,395 in January and February, according to the Sheriff).

“The Controller’s report has many faults,” said Diana Zuñiga of CURB. “The most dangerous problem with the report is that it does not considering how San Francisco could invest in alternatives to locking people in jails, it provides neither incentive nor opportunity to build on the success of the last six years. Since 2008, we have reduced the jail population by over 30 percent. The Controller proposes we reverse that trend.”

Two weeks ago, Sheriff Mirkarimi asked, “It begs the question, because of the declining jail population, will we even need a new jail?”

“When we first heard about the jail proposal in June of last year the proposal was for 800 beds, then the Sheriff claimed they needed 588-630 beds, and now the ‘projections’ continue to plummet to as low as 63-229 beds” says Misty Rojo Program Coordinator for the California Coalition for Women Prisoners a non-profit based in San Francisco that works with women and transgender prisoners. Rojo continues “That drastic decline so far is San Francisco responding to pressure by the community, imagine how many jails we could actually close if we were spending all these resources on building affordable housing, treatment, mental health and other programs that people really need?”

Among those opposing a new jail are United Educators of San Francisco whose members voted this month in favor or a resolution formally opposing any new jail construction in San Francisco, “the expansion of the California prison system has had a devastating effect on poor and working people of color. In San Francisco, African-Americans make up 56% of the jail population and only 7% of the general city population. As educators we are particularly concerned about the long-term impact on children whose parents are incarcerated. Nationally, 1 in 15 African American children have an incarcerated parent behind bars and they are statistically much more likely to end up in prison themselves than their peers without incarcerated parents.”

The full report can be reviewed here:




About the Author

Recent Articles