The seismically unsafe prison in the San Francisco Justice Hall will close earlier than expected after inmate populations plummeted to unheard-of lows amid the pandemic, city officials said Tuesday.
Mayor London Breed and Sheriff Paul Miyamoto plan to close District Jail No. 4 in less than two weeks – on September 5 – after the governing body passed an ordinance calling for it to close by November.
The closure “is part of our wider effort to shift resources towards alternatives to incarceration that are more effective in creating a safer society for all of us,” Breed said in a statement.
“We need to continue reforming our criminal justice system to prevent crime, end incarceration in response to social problems, and reduce relapses,” she said. “We are all safer when we invest in measures that address the root causes of most criminal behavior.”
Miyamoto said the facility “outlived its useful life” and put people at risk.
Inmates are among the last to be dragged out of the aging justice hall, which was built in 1958 and classified as seismically unsafe in the 1990s. The facility still houses the criminal courts, but agencies such as the doctor’s office and prosecutor’s office have moved.
The building has also suffered from plumbing problems. Last month, the Board of Supervisors approved a $ 2.1 million settlement on more than 200 inmates who had spilled raw sewage for months.
Last year, Breed published a plan to close the prison by July 2021. In May, Supervisor Sandra Fewer headed the Board of Supervisors to hasten closure to November after the inmate population in all of the city’s prisons fell from around 1,100 at the beginning of the year to below 700 by April.
“In the past few months, the city has seen a significant decline in the prison population to ensure the facility can be safely closed,” said Fewer. “Ultimately, no one – not imprisoned, sheriff deputy or anyone else – should have to spend more time in this shabby building.”
The pandemic reduced the number of people booked and also resulted in prosecutors and prosecutors agreeing to release certain inmates early.
“We have reduced the prison population by about 40 percent by relying on incarceration as a last resort and working closely with our re-entry partners to expedite safe release,” said District Attorney Chesa Boudin. “This significant reduction in the prison population – while crime rates have declined – shows that mass incarceration does not make us safer.”
Defense attorney Mano Raju said, “We have both a responsibility and an opportunity to review our response to harm and the needs of our community by downsizing our prison system in every possible way. The closure of District 4 Prison is a critical part of this process. ”
In March, the Ministry of Health’s Department of Prison Health called for the prison population to be reduced to 700 to 800 inmates in order to achieve social distancing and contain the spread of COVID-19.
The prison records show that 770 inmates have been held in the city’s three prisons, reception center and infirmary as of Tuesday, including 77 people detained in the No. 4 District Prison.
Inmates at the closure site are expected to be transferred to either the No. 5 District Jail in San Bruno or the No. 2 District Jail on Seventh Street.
Bay Area NewsCrimesan Francisco News
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