County Jail 2: An Overview of the Sheriff’s 2017 Proposal

April 19, 2017

Sheriff Vicki Hennessy is applying for $70 million from the state for a jail renovation that will cost San Francisco over $25 million dollars. This will re-entrench the city’s racist, anti-poor and anti-homeless jail system, while opening the door for years of expansion.

Increase in bed count: Sheriff Vicki Hennessy plans to renovate an area of County Jail 2 that has been closed for years (Pod D, Upper), resulting in an expansion of jail capacity by 24 people.

Increase in isolation and surveillance: The open dormitories in County Jail 2 would be renovated to create a more closed maximum security cell structure and higher security classifications which inhumanely restrict movement and increase isolation.

Who would be impacted: The proposal would create 24 two person maximum security cells, where the Sheriff proposes to jail people needing mental health treatment. The Sheriff also plans to renovate an area of the jail where transgender prisoners are held (Pod A, Upper), potentially resulting in their transfer to maximum security cells capable of increased isolation and control, rather than working to release transgender prisoners. Additionally, the Sheriff’s proposal creates 4 disability compliant cells which will be maximum security cells where people may face additional isolation and control of movement simply due to their disability.

Transfer of prisoners: The Sheriff suggests two disastrous options for where to put CJ2 prisoners during construction. In the first option, San Francisco would rent beds in another county during construction (likely Santa Rita jail in Alameda County), costing approx. $13.5 million in leased bed space, not including costly prisoner transportation from the jail to court and other appointments, and making access to loved ones and lawyers more difficult. In the second option, prisoners would be transferred to County Jail 3 in 850 Bryant and housed there until renovations to County Jail 2 conclude in 2021 or later, costing $3 million in updates to the failing structure. This is entirely counter to the intent of closing the 850 Bryant and lowering the jail population.

 Only first phase of a costly spending on jails: This initial proposal amounts to $83 million, while the Sheriff’s Department has cited the cost of full renovations (“Phase Two”) at $200 million or more.

Possible elimination of contact visitation: The proposal plans to install screens in the visitation rooms. It is unclear whether screens will be installed in all visitation spaces or whether this will apply only to maximum security prisoners.

Programing space: The proposal adds additional programing space, however there will be security screens to separate prisoners in some of these program spaces, and the majority of program spaces are holding cells and medical treatment rooms. It is unclear what will actually be used for supportive programing for prisoners.

We are working towards a jail-free San Francisco. Instead of signing blank checks for enhancing jail infrastructure, the city needs to commit to permanently closing 850 Bryant and stopping its reliance on policing and jailing to address social and economic issues. When over half of San Francisco’s jailed population is African American, most prisoners remain locked up because they cannot afford bail, and many prisoners are in need of mental health services, we know that jail renovation is no solution.