Lizzie Buchen, No New SF Jail Coalition, firstname.lastname@example.org, 510-435-1176
Mohamed Shehk, No New SF Jail Coalition, Mohamed@criticalresistance.org, 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.