Yesterday, the No New SF Jail Coalition joined the Sister Warriors Freedom Coalition outside of County Jail 2 in a Banner Drop Statewide Day of Action to echo our community’s calls for California Governor Gavin Newsom to immediately:
Free people from state prisons, use power, including mass clemency and emergency release
Stop transfers from state and local custody to ICE and between California prisons;
Stop the expansion of immigration detention
Hold the detention industry accountable.
The statewide banner drop coordinated dozens of groups from San Diego to Yuba to rename jails, prisons, and other detention facilities after Governor Newsom. We are especially grateful to have been part of this event alongside SF members of the Sister Warriors Freedom Coalition, who are doing rad work to push for decriminalization, decarceration, and transformative justice across the state.
It’s official: County Jail 4 in 850 Bryant St has closed its doors!There are no people being imprisoned there, and we have officially shut it down.
On Wednesday, September 23, 2020, at the SF Sentencing Commission’s Safety & Justice Challenge Subcommittee meeting, city leaders including representatives of the SF District Attorney and the SF Public Defender released the first draft of the subcommittee’s “Final Report” on the successful completion of the operational plan to close County Jail 4.
We couldn’t have done it without each of you. You met us in the streets. You met us at City Hall. You showed up and called in to give public comment. And, as of September 5, County Jail 4 has officially reached a “zero” jail count, effectively closing its doors for good. We want to take a moment to appreciate your support and dedication over the years, and especially over the past several months. Our people power and persistence is what passed legislation, introduced by Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer in tandem with the No New SF Jail Coalition, to close County Jail 4 after decades of inaction by our city. The legislation also prohibits San Francisco from transferring imprisoned people out-of-county and restricts the city from building a new jail.
Despite the pandemic, wildfires, and countless other urgent matters, our supporters also showed up to even more digital actions and public comment sessions after Sheriff Paul Miyamoto announced initial plans to keep using the jail to house kitchen and laundry workers, as well as continue using the jail’s holding cells. While the Sheriff will temporarily continue bringing incarcerated workers to cook meals and do laundry for County Jail 2, the closure of the jail without exceptions for the use of holding cells or for housing kitchen and laundry workers is nothing less than a People’s victory. Our coalition remains committed to monitoring this closure until “closed” means “closed” for every single person, including the 17 incarcerated kitchen workers who are expected to keep cooking meals at County Jail 4 until early next year.
The Hall of Justice at 850 Bryant Street has been slated for demolition since 1996, and has since gotten more dilapidated. In 2013, then-Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi sought to build a new replacement jail – a move that was met with swift opposition from community members, formerly imprisoned people, and housing and healthcare advocates. As a result of pressure from the No New SF Jail Coalition, the Board of Supervisors unanimously rejected the idea of a new jail in 2015.
We are so proud of the work we have done together. Our victory demonstrates that we can make real, material gains against the prison industrial complex through committed and sustained organizing. We hope you will keep an eye out as we send updates and plan our Coalition’s next steps in the ongoing fight toward abolition. In the meantime, we invite you to continue joining us at our Abolition in Action event series to engage in political education and keep up the abolitionist momentum. All power to the people! Free them all!
We look forward to continue strengthening our movement for a jail-free San Francisco with you.
How can we respond to harm without punishment, even now during the COVID crisis?
Our frontline workers & grassroots experts have the answers!
In San Francisco, COVID has exacerbated both the housing and poverty crises as well as the opioid epidemic. For the past several years, San Francisco has faced a serious problem with opioid overdose, as 1 in 6 cardiac arrest deaths in SF were fatal overdoses and fentanyl and heroin overdoses more than doubled in 2019. Now, Covid cases continue to rise as well, with the number of Bay Area cases tripling over the past 6 weeks. The isolation resulting from the requirements of social distancing to stop the spread of coronavirus has led to an increased risk of fatal overdose. Kristen Marshall, with the Drug Overdose Prevention and Education (DOPE) Project at the Harm Reduction Coalition and one of our speakers for next week’s event, told the SF Chronicle: “We know people are more likely to pass away from an overdose, simply because they are alone,” as shelter-in-place and social distancing cuts people off from life-saving relationships, options and support.
Miss Ian (center), another one of our event speakers, preparing harm reduction supplies at SF Drug Users Union on Turk St with volunteer Michael Richardson (left) and Frances Fu (right; DOPE Project). Photo from SF Chronicle by Scott Strazzante
COVID has also exposed the reality of jailing and imprisonment being a public health crisis in and of itself, with 452% higher covid infection rates in the prisoner population than California overall. After San Francisco released hundreds of people from its jails earlier this Spring in an effort to stop the spread of COVID inside, the numbers of folks arrested and jailed in the city are increasing. With overdoses dramatically increasing and unemployment reaching historic highs, we can assume many of the arrests may be drug related. While the situation is dire for us all, our most vulnerable are the most affected.
Rather than responding to these compounded crises through imprisonment, policing, criminalization and stigmatization, our city must prioritize creative, resourceful and straight-forward problem-solving that upholds care and honors and protects human dignity. In San Francisco, it is our service providers, community organizations and frontline workers who have been showing us the way out of this crisis, using harm reduction and decriminalization approaches where they meet people where they are at and provide them with the resources they need to survive, no matter what. Check out what this looks like in this video below featuring one of our Abolition in Action speakers, GLIDE’s Harm Reduction Case Manager Felanie Castro, as Felanie shows how GLIDE uses their community outreach van to disrupt isolation, stigmatization and marginalization by distributing resources like tents, meals, water, syringe access services, and smoking services even during shelter-in-place.
How can we care for each other and our communities without relying on prisons, policing and punishment? How can we define and create safety to support our most vulnerable and help each other meet all of our needs for wellness? How can we strengthen existing harm-reduction and decriminalization work and continue to fight for abolition?
Folks who do sex work, use drugs, or struggle with addiction are often our communities’ most vulnerable–regularly enduring police violence, the threat or reality of getting locked up, of premature death, and of continuous exploitation. While harm can and often does happen with these activities, these practices are methods of survival, as a source of income or for self-medication and coping. Rather than responding with understanding, care and support, the state upholds and perpetuates stigma, using the violence of policing, criminalization, jailing and punishment in part to respond to harm or potential harm and also to control capital within the sex and drug trades. Instead of punishment, we can respond to harm or its potential and whatever people feel they have to do in order to survive by helping folks minimize risks instead of punishing them for struggling to live. In this way, harm-reduction and decriminalization give us concrete tools and approaches to take care of our folks who need it most and push for true safety for all of us.
Care Not Cages:
Harm Reduction, Decriminalizing Survival & Liberating SF
For years, the City of San Francisco has increased its spending and resources to policing. Now with more public pressure and calls to cut funds for policing and reallocate these resources to our communities, Mayor Breed has announced a few budget cuts, but they are simply not enough. The Mayor’s current budget and proposed cuts to the Sheriff Dept are very insignificant compared to proposed reductions to other city departments, many of which provide the programs and spaces our city needs to thrive: 5.7% compared to about 11.3% for the SF Public Library, 16% for the Dept of Children, Youth & Families, and 31% for Public Works. This follows a harmful trend in San Francisco leadership of prioritizing criminalization, policing and jailing at the expense of our communities. Last year for instance, the average total compensation for a Deputy Sheriff was $210,000 — the equivalent of more than 2 teachers in the city.
Furthermore, the proposed cuts for the Sheriff’s Department exploit the much-needed and already mandated closure of 850 Bryant, and these cuts don’t reflect the real change we need in our city’s budget. Through jailing and policing, the Sheriff’s Depart perpetuates anti-Blackness and white supremacy in SF and separates families, snatching our people away and caging our loved ones in jails where social distancing is impossible during a global health crisis.
Our communities are safe and can thrive when we ALL have housing, healthcare, living wages, quality education, public transit, and the community-based supports and resources we need. These priorities are where San Francisco should be spending its money, NOT on jails, SFPD, nor other policing programs. “Defunding the police” isn’t our end goal – it’s just the beginning.
TOMORROW, July 25th, 1 pm: Funding Our Communities: SF’s $11 Billion Budget as a Strategy for Abolition A Virtual Collective Visioning Workshop
We know what we need best to survive, thrive and take care of one another. In this moment of calling for racial justice, divestment from the legal punishment system, and re-investment in community, we must uplift the needs of Frisco’s diverse, complex and multifaceted community, along with the memories and names of those who have not survived. In honor of the experience of Kajon Busby and the police executions of Mario Woods, Alex Nieto, Luis Góngora Pat, Jessica Williams, Amilcar Perez-Lopez, Sean Monterrosa and so many more – it’s time to come together to call for a San Francisco budget that prioritizes the needs of our most vulnerable and historically exploited communities – our Black, Brown, disabled, trans, queer, and undocumented community members – and that will sustain us all. We deserve to live in a city that emphasizes care and humanity. We must fight for that San Francisco every chance we get.
TOMORROW: Come envision, learn and skill-up with us, as we strengthen people power and imagine how to truly re-invest in our communities. Together, we will:
look at SF’s budget and understand budget advocacy as an abolitionist strategy to dismantle oppressive City structures and practices,
vision collectively to build life-affirming support and infrastructure,
and learn how to apply legislative pressure in budget advocacy via a mini-training on submitting public comment to decision-makers!
Thank you so much for coming to our webinar on SF Reentry Experiences, Struggles & Resources– “Getting Out & Getting Free”– this past Tuesday night.
The event was a great success. We were joined by over 100 people, many of whom have family members currently imprisoned in prisons and jails, as well as a few former prisoners, service providers and community organizers.
Join us for our guest speakers and grassroots-expert panel for a discussion on Reentry experiences and supports in San Francisco, a night envisioning and strategizing for abolitionist systems of support for our communities and loved ones getting out of jail.
Listen to Jesus’s experience and advice with getting out & getting free! Then come see him and out other grassroots experts tonight!
Final Speaker Line Up (with some corrected info)
Jesus Frisco Lens
Jose Bernal, Ella Baker Center
Sheba Rivera, No New SF Jail Coalition & Critical Resistance
Bobby Jones-Hanley, Hospitality House
Eli Berry-St.John, Transgender, Gender Variant & Intersec Justice Project (TGIJP)
Knowing the dehumanizing and harmful conditions inside SF jails, and knowing the inequitable conditions in the City right now especially during the COVID crisis, what support do you think folks need in busting out and coming home?
Last week on Sunday, May 24th, No New SF Jails kicked off our new Abolition in Action Series, a monthly series of community events on different topics related to building a jail-free San Francisco. Over 40 community members joined us for the first Abolition in Action Series event, People’s Assessment of the Shut Down 850 Ordinance.
The presentation covered the details of the legislation, why it mattered, and what’s left before 850 Bryant closes. Small group “breakout” discussions dove into more detail, assessing the ordinance and where we could go from here. Participants asked really great questions and collectively assessed the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats of the ordinance to close 850 Bryant.
You can view the presentation of the event in this video here:
We hope to see you at our June Abolition in Action event, a panel presentation on Re-Entry support and services to support folks being released from County jails in SF during the last week of June (exact date to be decided soon).