Communities claim victory against new SF Jail after two year fight

Press Contacts
Lizzie Buchen, No New SF Jail Coalition,, 510-435-1176
Mohamed Shehk, No New SF Jail Coalition,, 408-910-2618

SAN FRANCISCO – In a powerful public presence, community members and activists opposed to imprisonment celebrated as the Board of Supervisors rejected funding toward a controversial proposal to build a new maximum security jail in San Francisco at the board meeting earlier today. The jail proposal was rejected unanimously.

“We’ve sent a message not just to San Francisco, but to all of California that we will not allow our resources to be squandered on jails that only serve to tear communities apart,” said Lizzie Buchen of Californians United for a Responsible Budget. “We urge all counties currently considering jail construction plans to take the lead from San Francisco by saying no to further imprisonment, and to prioritize the alternatives and resources that actually strengthen communities.”

In rejecting the jail proposal, the board decided to send the funding ordinances that would have funded the project back to committees in order to discuss how the money could be used for alternatives to imprisonment.

“This is truly a victory for communities in San Francisco and people fighting jail construction everywhere,” said Lisa Marie Alatorre of SF Coalition on Homelessness. “Through grassroots organizing we put our words into action to make clear that we don’t want jails that are newer and nicer. We want alternatives to imprisonment and permanent affordable housing, for people locked inside to return to their communities. And as we’ve shown today, we will make that happen through our collective strength.”

The SF jail proposal, as with many jails across the country, was deemed necessary by the Sheriff’s Department to improve jail conditions, expand mental health services, increase safety for trans women, and provide substance abuse treatment. “We successfully showed that regardless of how state-of-the-art a jail is designed, it is a fundamentally harmful and violent place, and that community based services and resources are far more effective in getting people the help that they need while reducing recidivism,” says Kamau Walton of Critical Resistance Oakland and Black Lives Matter Bay Area.

“With such an outrageous proportion of the jail population being Black, we reject the notion that Black residents’ only way of accessing resources like mental healthcare is by criminalizing them, arresting them, and locking them away,” Walton said. Jail opponents have consistently noted that while Black people make up just around 4% of San Francisco’s population, they account for over half of those in the county’s jails.

Grassroots opposition to the jail has been spearheaded by the No New SF Jail Coalition, composed of various community organizations including California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Critical Resistance – Oakland, Californians United for a Responsible Budget, Communities United Against Violence, SF Coalition on Homelessness, and SF Taxpayers for Public Safety. After the vote, the Coalition is committed to continuing to ensure that the funding is used for community based alternatives and that the supervisors are held accountable to their decision today.

The Coalition will be holding a press teleconference tomorrow at 9am Pacific, 12 pm Eastern to address the press regarding its victory. Press can call in at 712.832.8300, access code 6874160.


Community Activists Shut Down Board Chambers to Demand No New SF Jail

So much has happened in such a short time. This just goes to show that when we use our people power we actually shift our political conditions and realities.

On Wednesday, December 2nd the No New SF Jail Coalition mobilized close to a hundred people to San Francisco City Hall where the Budget and Finance Committee of the Board of Supervisors were attempting to approve the funding for the proposed new jail. The Board of Supervisors knew we were coming and pushed back the jail-related items to the end of the meeting.

After sitting through over an hour of budget and finance they finally read out the agenda items related to the jail. As soon as they finished reading the agenda, organizers in the back of the hearing began chanting and unveiled a banner that read “NO SF JAIL” as 5 organizers in the front of the hearing deployed a lock down. The room erupted with chanting and shouting declaring “No new SF jail” and that we were shutting the hearing down.

Organizers shut down the hearing for over two hours, turning City Hall over to the power of the people. Our demand was simple: this hearing cannot continue; you must stop this jail project now. While our supporters on the Board of Supervisors stood with us and our demands, Conservative Supervisor Mark Farrell insisted that the hearing would not be cancelled.

After 2 hours of shutting it down declaring “House keys not handcuffs,” “Lift us up, don’t lock us up” and urging “Supervisor Tang, do the right thang,” the police issued a dispersal order. All community members left the hearing without arrest except for the 5 freedom fighters locked down in the front of the room. The No New SF Jail 5 held their ground until they were physically cut out of their lock-down with power saws and bolt cutters, forcibly removed and arrested due to the hearing recess and dispersal order requested by Supervisor Mark Farrell.

The hearing continued after the No New SF Jail 5 were arrested. With a stacked public comment and a strong opposition, the hearing clearly showed that a new SF jail would be wasteful, unnecessary and violent at a time when we could invest in viable community alternatives. The hearing ended with a decision to move the issue forward without positive recommendation and delay a vote on the jail funding until December 15 when the full board can hear the options, including newly elected Board of Supervisor Aaron Peskin.

This victory is due to the No New SF Jail Coalition’s and all of our partners powerful organizing and legislative advocacy. With this win we are in an even stronger position to fight the proposed jail!

The No New SF Jail 5 have been released from jail and now know personally that the Hall of (in)Justice at 850 Bryant is indeed decrepit and unsafe. This is why we demand that the 850 Bryant be closed immediately, not rebuilt and that all people currently locked in cages inside be released into their communities.

We are continuing to build power, organize our loved ones, and raise hell until there is No New SF Jail. Now the Board of Supervisors knows that if they continue to ignore our demands that we will make sure that we are heard.

If you have been waiting for a time to get involved in this jail fight – the time has come. Stay tuned for updates, tell your friends and come out strong with us in the next two weeks against the proposed new SF jail. Make calls today.

Mark your calendars to turn out on December 15th at 2pm at the SF Board of Supervisors.

Another San Francisco is possible!

#NoNewSFJail #NoMoreJails #HouseKeysNotHandcuffs #LiftUsUpDontLockUsUp #IBelieveWeWillWin

The People’s Media – Round Up of Photos and Videos from Dec 2nd Board Shut Down

Protesters turn out at hearing for proposed SF jail, force committee to go into recess – The San Francisco Examiner

By Joshua Sabatini on December 2, 2015 1:06 pm

Opponents of San Francisco’s new 384-bed jail proposal turned out Wednesday at the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee meeting, launching a protest inside of City Hall’s board chambers.

A protester displays a sign opposing the building of a new jail facility in San Francisco, during a budget and finance comittee meeting at San Francisco’s city hall Wednesday, December 2, 2015. (Connor Hunt/Special to the S.F. Examiner)

Chanting “no vote today” and “affordable housing, not jail cells,” about 100 protesters forced the committee to go into recess just before noon. The protest began immediately after the item was called for discussion.

The protesters stayed in the chambers chanting until 1:30 p.m., when the board room was cleared by deputy sheriffs. Four protesters stayed behind chained together through PVC piping, which supervisors said was a first in their memory.

The Fire Department was called to cut through the tubing and chains. The four protesters were led off in handcuffs by deputy sheriffs.

The meeting resumed shortly after 2:30 p.m. with public commenters kept in an outside room and escorted in three at a time when called by name.

The committee voted at 6 p.m. to send the jail proposal to the full board for a vote on Dec. 15, one week later than was initially expected. Opponents had complained the proposal was being rushed.

Those on both sides of the jail debate agree The City’s existing facilities are in deplorable condition and should shut down. There are 886 beds at the Hall of Justice, known as County Jails No. 3 and No. 4. Currently, only County Jail No. 4 is usable, holding about 400 inmates.

However, opponents say affordable housing and community services are better investments, among other claims. Supporters of the proposal, including Mayor Ed Lee, argue The City will need the additional jail bed capacity.

Adding to the project’s controversy was the issue of when Mayor Lee would sign the election results into law, which he has 10 days to do beginning this Tuesday.

Signing it without delay would ensure District 3 Supervisor–elect Aaron Peskin, a political progressive, could be sworn in before the jail vote, which was initially expected to occur Dec. 8. By moving the vote to Dec. 15, it assures Peskin will be on the board.

Jess Heaney, co–director of Critical Resistance, a group advocating against prisons, said, “We’ve been here for months, actually years, urging you to address and invest in alternatives to caging people.”

“The country is also abuzz with the idea that our largest mental health facilities now are jails, and you are going to build more?” Heaney said. “Do something different. Invest in real health resources.”

Barbara Garcia, director of Department of Public Health, said the department provides $30 million of services in the jail, and that the new facility would provide for improved services.

“Because of all these services that we’ve done keeping people out of jail and getting them back into the community when they leave jail there is only 6 percent of the population in our jail that have severe mental illness,” Garcia said.

District Attorney George Gascon sent a letter to the board opposing the new jail, calling it a “terrible mistake.” Instead, he wants The City to explore alternatives.

“With as many as 40 percent of our in–custody population suffering from some degree of mental illness, it is clear that San Francisco has a mental health treatment problem, not a jail capacity problem,” Gascon said in the letter.

Without the new jail, there would be a maximum of 1,230 total beds in the system. As of Nov. 20, the jail population, which has been in decline, was 1,270, of which 49 percent comprised black people.

Kate Howard, Mayor Lee’s budget director said, “in order for us to not need a jail the population that is currently in jail would have to drop by more than 300 people. It would have to stay there for 40 years. We have never seen that.”

Howard added, “We don’t have another plan. This is our best thinking.”

Supervisor Eric Mar said he opposed the new jail and said The City needs to address the “root causes” not support “a process that is continuing with mass incarceration, especially of African-American and poor people.”

Supervisor Katy Tang, who is supporting the jail, argued that “there is a larger movement behind the arguments” of those opposing the jail, but “some of those arguments really ignore the practical realities if this new facility was not built.”

The jail plan received a boost last month with an announcement by Lee that The City secured an $80 million state grant to build the jail.

The $240 million jail project, planned for next door to the existing facility, increases to $380 million with debt.

On Thursday, the Board of Supervisors Government Audit and Oversight Committee will hold a hearing on alternatives to incarceration.

SF Jail Project Moves to Full Board for Vote

Protesters opposed to plans to build a new jail in San Francisco shut down a meeting at City Hall

Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015.

A controversial plan to build a new $240 million jail in San Francisco moved forward Wednesday after a tumultuous hearing marked by a protest that shut the meeting down for several hours and led to the arrest of several people.

The Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee Wednesday voted unanimously to forward the jail project to the full board for a vote without a recommendation. The committee also agreed to schedule the vote for Dec. 15 rather than Dec. 8 to allow newly-elected Supervisor Aaron Peskin time to be sworn in.

The jail project, which includes the acceptance of an $80 million state grant, the issuance of $215 million in city financing and the purchase of property next to the Hall of Justice at 850 Bryant St., is intended to replace two decrepit, seismically unsafe jails now in use on the site. The proposed new 384-bed facility would have 444 fewer beds than the current jails and include more space for inmate programs as well as units for mental health and drug treatment, according to city officials.

The project faces stiff opposition from opponents who argue the city should instead spend the money on social services and programs to reduce incarceration and crime rates. Opponents have urged the city to instead renovate existing jails in San Bruno, but city officials have said that solution is unworkable and would still leave the jail in need of more beds and holding facilities.

Supervisor Katy Tang today said the conditions in the current jails were untenable and needed to be addressed.

“Some of those arguments really ignore the practical reality of what would happen if this facility were not rebuilt,” Tang said before the committee vote.

The project’s fate before the full board remains uncertain, with some board members expressing opposition. Supervisor Eric Mar, a member of the budget and safety committee, Wednesday said that he would likely be voting against it due to his concerns about incarceration rates and their impact on the community.

“I want to be on the right side of history on this,” Mar said. Wednesday’s vote came after a noisy protest under the No New SF Jail Coalition banner around noon Wednesday. The group, which called for the vote to be postponed, erupted into loud chanting before discussion began, bringing the proceedings to a halt and eventually forcing supervisors to call a recess.

Supervisors Divided on Spending $224 For New San Francisco Jail

San Francisco Supervisor Mark Farrell said he understands people want to rehabilitate offenders, but thinks it’s “naiive” to not build a jail at all. The board was scheduled to vote on whether to accept $80 million in state funding. Stephanie Chuang reports. (Published Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015)

The protest culminated in the arrest by sheriff’s deputies of four females and one male who had chained themselves together. The five were arrested on suspicion of trespassing in a public building, according to a sheriff’s office spokeswoman.