San Francisco’s seismically unsafe jail at the Hall of Justice will close earlier than expected, Mayor London Breed and Sheriff Paul Miyamoto announced Tuesday.

County Jail 4 — located on the seventh floor at 850 Bryant Street — will close on Sept. 5, which is two months earlier than expected after the Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance 10-1 back in May to close the jail in November.

The effort to close to the decades old, run-down jail is part of The City’s efforts on reforming the criminal justice system and to find alternatives for persons other than incarcerating them, Breed said at a press conference:

“It is inhumane. It is nasty. It is dirty. It is filthy and I wouldn’t want to see my worst enemy in that place. It’s time to close it.”

The mayor, who grew in public housing in The City, said it was common for residents in her neighborhood to visit family and friends locked up at 850 Bryant Street having to go up to an elevator first to the sixth floor to sign as people in order to visit people on the seventh floor, an experience she described as a “haunting” one.

Breed did have a plan to close the jail by 2021 before supervisors approved the ordinance. 

Miyamoto said described the jail as linear facility with cell units configured along a patrol line:

“County Jail 4 for represents the last vestiges of a bygone era. It is a symbol of an outdated philosophy and represents the old way of doing things, and an old way of doing things that a sheriff’s office and our city have moved away from.”

The City has been moving away from the linear jail facilities with the closure of County Jail No. 1 and County Jail No. 3 in 2006 and 2013, Miyamoto said.

Additionally, the building has had plumbing and sewer issues in recent years, which led to The City having to settle a $2.1 million lawsuit with over 200 inmates over a raw sewage spill.

Miyamoto said the jail population at the Hall of Justice is 77 and persons will get transferred to jails on Seventh Street and in San Bruno. Seventy deputies and supervisors will be reassigned to other areas of the department.

Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer, who was the main sponsor of the ordinance to close jail in November, said it she had to convince members of the board that it was possible to close the jail November, but now it closes two months earlier:

“Closing County Jail No. 4 two months before we mandated it in our legislation, it is absolutely outstanding. It is incredible.” 

Public Defender Manohar Raju said it was significant moment for the members of community who have advocated the closure of the jail for many years:

“As we close County Jail No. 4, let’s also make clear that we’re making a statement about our values as San Franciscans shifting away from this outdated and ineffective mode of incarceration and moving towards a model where we center human potential redemption and healing.”

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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