City officials are scrambling to plan the relocation of approximately 300 inmates after Mayor London Breed announced Thursday that occupants of San Francisco’s Hall of Justice, including County Jail 4, have less than two years to vacate the building.

Sheriff Vicki Hennessy said at a hearing Friday that options to move inmates are scarce and expensive.

Possibilities Hennessy presented include the recently closed Glenn E. Dyer Detention Facility in Oakland and Santa Rita Jail in Dublin. Both facilities are in Alameda County and Hennessy does not consider either option ideal.

Hennessy said:

“We don’t have a lot of options.”

Inmates risk losing resources if not housed in The City. Hennessy said a move to Oakland would be expensive and a further move to Dublin would be a struggle for inmates’ families and lawyers.

Hennessy added that the mayor’s goal to construct and open the planned Justice Campus by 2030 is outrageous.

Supervisor Matt Haney called for the Friday hearing to discuss the logistics of closing the Hall of Justice at 850 Bryant St. He said the building has been unsafe since the 1990s and The City should have closed the jail long ago.

However, Haney questioned the mayor’s plan to close the jail by July 2021 to make way for the proposed Justice Campus. 

The supervisor said:

“We still don’t have details on how to do this.”

Haney said he would not support moving inmates to Alameda County nor does he support building a new jail, an idea the Board of Supervisors rejected in 2015.

The Budget and Legislative Office reported that on July 31, 2019, the County Jail 4 housed 313 inmates. Of those, 291 inmates were awaiting trial.

Dllu/Wikimedia Commons A vehicle used to transport students to a San Francisco, Calif. Hall of Justice field trip was burglarized September 23, 2019. Police announced the arrest of a suspect and returned property to the students.

No New SF Jail Coalition advocates said they want to see County Jail 4 close by next year and oppose any effort by The City to build new jail facilities.

Coalition representative Sam Lew said while they applaud Breed’s efforts to vacate the unsafe building, they do not want new jail beds constructed as part of the new campus.

A statement issued by the Office of the Mayor said:

“The (Justice) Campus will include a mix of mental health beds, substance use treatment beds, reentry transitional housing for people exiting the criminal justice system, and jail beds, if necessary.”

The group also opposes the plan to include mental health beds inside the Justice Campus.

Lew said:

“We know that co-locating mental health services and law enforcement is dangerous for those seeking mental health treatment.”

Instead, the coalition said The City should invest more in community resources and programs to reduce the jail population.

Although there is still no solid plan to move inmates, all parties agree that the seismically unsound Hall of Justice is a safety risk to inmates and people who work there in the event of a big earthquake.

Jerold Chinn
Jerold Chinn is the San Francisco Bureau Chief of SFBay. A San Francisco native, he has spent a decade covering transportation in San Francisco. Send tips to jerold@sfbay.ca or at Twitter @Jerold_Chinn.

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