For Immediate Release – Monday, March 2, 2015
Community Groups to Rally and Mobilize Against New SF Jail
San Francisco – Today, community organizations and advocacy groups with the SF Jail Fight Coalition will be holding a rally against a proposed jail construction project in San Francisco, and will be mobilizing community members to attend two public city meetings to voice their opposition to the project. Jail opponents claim that public resources should be invested in community services and healthy alternatives to imprisonment, rather than wasted on worsening California’s imprisonment crisis.
Organizers against the jail highlight the fact that San Francisco’s jail population has been steadily decreasing, with 35% of the county’s jail capacity currently unused. “We are proud that San Francisco’s jail population is shrinking, but it is utterly illogical that the Sheriff is responding by proposing a new jail,” says Coral Feigin of Critical Resistance Oakland. “The only population that hasn’t showed a decline in jail numbers is people with mental health issues. This clearly tells us that we need to be investing in effective mental health services and support, not more cages that literally only worsen the problem.”
“Currently, 84% of the people in San Francisco jails are pre-trial, meaning they have not even been tried or sentenced to jail time,” says Lisa Marie Alatorre of the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness. “Yet, they are still locked up simply for not being able to afford bail. San Francisco is in essence criminalizing the poor.” Advocates say that revising bail schedules and expanding pre-trial diversion programs are just two examples of simple and effective alternatives that would make a costly new jail unnecessary.
Critics also argue that the gross disparities in the jail population reveal the damaging role imprisonment plays in maintaining a system that targets people of color, poor and working class communities, and people who have mental illness.
“Although African Americans make up only 4% of San Francisco’s population, they account for 56% of the jail population. Latino children are three times more likely than their white counterparts to have a parent locked up,” says Janetta Johnson of the Transgender Gender Variant Intersex Justice Project. “Building a new jail would deepen these disparities and further criminalize communities most impacted by imprisonment, including Black and Latino communities, trans people, the homeless population, and those with mental health issues.” Organizers also argue that a new jail would intensify the targeting of marginalized populations in the face of increasing gentrification in San Francisco.
The SF Jail Fight Coalition will be rallying outside the Hall of Justice, 850 Bryant St., beginning at 5:30pm. The rally will then march to a public meeting hosted by SF Public Works and the SF Sheriff’s Department about the jail project’s environmental review process, to take place at the Community Assessment & Service Center, 564 6th St., from 6pm to 8pm. Community members are also mobilizing to attend San Francisco’s Capital Planning Committee meeting at 12pm at city hall, Room 201, where the jail plan will be voted on.
Press contacts will be available at the rally and public meetings for interviews.