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All eyes on San Francisco Dec. 15: Tell Supervisors to vote for NO NEW JAIL

December 13, 2015

Update: Communities claim victory against new SF jail after two year fight

San Francisco, Dec. 15, 2015 – 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.

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.”

Members of the No New SF Jail Coalition celebrate victory on the steps of City Hall Dec. 15.

Members of the No New SF Jail Coalition celebrate victory on the steps of City Hall Dec. 15. Board of Supervisors President London Breed said it best, that the building at 850 Bryant “needs to come down, but more than a building we need to tear down the system of mass incarceration it represents. I am not going to support another stand-alone jail to continue to lock up African Americans and Latinos in this city.”

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 the 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 percent of San Francisco’s population, they account for over half of those in the county’s jails.

“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,” says Kamau Walton of Critical Resistance Oakland and Black Lives Matter Bay Area.

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. – No New SF Jail Coalition

by Coral Feigin

No new SF jail poster combo

All eyes are on San Francisco Tuesday, Dec. 15, as the Board of Supervisors prepares to take a historic vote on whether or not to approve the construction of a new $240 million jail. They will vote on accepting the $80 million loan from the Board of State Community Corrections and an additional $215 million in bonds to fund the jail project.

For more than three years, the No New SF Jail Coalition has been organizing, building power and explaining time and time again that San Francisco does not need a new jail. The No New SF Jail Coalition includes many different community organizations such as Critical Resistance, San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness, Taxpayers for Public Safety, Transgender Gendervariant Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP), Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP), Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB) and Communities United Against Violence (CUAV) and represents a wide range of community interests that have come together to build their collective strength to stop the SF jail.

This vote comes at a specific time in San Francisco’s history. As the boom in the tech industry has created immense wealth for some, the city is currently entrenched in an unprecedented housing crisis that is causing mass displacement of poor Brown and Black people, the extreme criminalization of homelessness and poverty, and incredible police violence including the recent murder of Mario Woods by SFPD (Rest in Power).

All eyes are on San Francisco Tuesday, Dec. 15, as the Board of Supervisors prepares to take a historic vote on whether or not to approve the construction of a new $240 million jail.

We know that the push to build a new San Francisco jail has everything to do with this shifting political landscape and that this fight is also a fight about who has the right to live in San Francisco. The city, once vibrant in culture and opportunity for people who didn’t have opportunities elsewhere, is now investing in jails for these same people.

The No New SF Jail Coalition’s position has been clear since day one – what San Francisco needs to keep its residents safe is housing, healthcare, mental health support, harm reductive substance use support, education, meaningful employment, community organizations, re-entry support and pre-trial diversion. NOT jails.

'Stop the New San Francisco Jail' posterThe proposed new SF jail will create 23 years of debt for San Francisco taxpayers. The project is incredibly expensive and will cost over $240 million for construction alone. This comes at a time when other life affirming services and organizations are being evicted and displaced and shutting their doors due to a lack of funding.

The current argument for building the new SF jail is that the Hall of (in)Justice at 850 Bryant St. is seismically unsafe and in incredible disrepair. We absolutely agree and advocate that the Hall of Justice be closed immediately and that the people currently imprisoned inside be released back to the community.

In fact, the current SF jail population is only at 50 percent capacity, and of that population 80 percent are being held pre-trial, meaning that they have not been convicted of any crime but are simply too poor to afford their bail.

In fact, 56 percent of the jail population is African American, though only 5 percent of San Francisco’s population is African American. In addition, 28 percent of the jail population is homeless and many more become homeless upon release. These numbers are outrageous – and yet this is the reality in San Francisco.

The No New SF Jail Coalition has been writing op-eds, lobbying, attending Board of Supervisors hearings, giving presentations to community groups, passing resolutions in unions, telling all of our friends and raising hell to show that the proposed new jail is a wasteful, harmful and violent use of taxpayers’ money.

On Wednesday, Dec. 2, 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 was attempting to approve the funding for the proposed new jail. When the jail items were heard, organizers in the back of the hearing began chanting immediately and unveiled a banner that read “NO SF JAIL” as five organizers in the front of the hearing deployed a lock down.

The room erupted with chanting and shouting declaring “No new SF jail,” “House Keys not Hand Cuffs” and that people were shutting the hearing down. Organizers took over the hearing for more than two hours, turning City Hall over to the power of the people and letting the Board of Supervisors know “this hearing cannot continue; you must stop this jail project now.”

Protesters took over the Board of Supervisors Budget Committee Dec. 2. After nearly two hours of dull budget wrangling, when the clerk announced the jail agenda items, a whistle interrupted him and out came the banners: “NO SF JAIL” and “DON’T LOCK UP OUR BUDGET.” At that point, the meeting descended into a festival-like atmosphere of shouting, stomping and chanting that went on for over an hour. – Photo: Adam Brinklow

Protesters took over the Board of Supervisors Budget Committee Dec. 2. After nearly two hours of dull budget wrangling, when the clerk announced the jail agenda items, a whistle interrupted him and out came the banners: “NO SF JAIL” and “DON’T LOCK UP OUR BUDGET.” At that point, the meeting descended into a festival-like atmosphere of shouting, stomping and chanting that went on for over an hour. – Photo: Adam Brinklow

After the police issued a dispersal order, 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 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 ended with a decision to move the issue forward without positive recommendation and delay a vote on the jail funding until Dec. 15 before the full board, including newly elected Supervisor Aaron Peskin. This is where you come in.

We need you to call the Board of Supervisors, tell your friends and come out strong on Dec. 15. We are seeing the Board of Supervisors waning on their support for the new jail. This means that our organizing is working!

We need you to call the Board of Supervisors, tell your friends and come out strong on Dec. 15.

On Thursday, Dec. 4, an “Alternatives to Incarceration” hearing gave city officials a chance to show other viable options instead of incarceration. However, the city officials who presented largely provided reasons to support building the jail and lacked substantive evidence of alternatives, despite the fact that many exist.

'No New Jail in San Francisco' CR posterAt the hearing, Supervisor Jane Kim said it best when she stated: “I just don’t want us to go down the path of picking what is simplest and easiest for us, what we have always done, which is just to rebuild a jail. I think we should absolutely question it and try to do better.”

Even Supervisor London Breed, who has not yet taken a stance against the SF jail, stated: “Is this the only option? What I asked for when I supported moving forward with the grant [for the jail] was to give us a better alternative, not just to move this particular plan forward … This hearing has done nothing to really make me feel overwhelmingly compelled to support a project that doesn’t do enough.”

Our organizing is shifting power and we can’t slow down now. We know that what happens on Dec. 15 in San Francisco does not happen in a vacuum. What happens in San Francisco will affect what happens in Oakland, and what happens in Los Angeles, and what happens in Fresno, and what happens in Ferguson, and what happens in Baltimore, and what happens in Chicago.

We have a chance to change the tide of this country and say NO to mass incarceration, say NO to police terror, say NO to prison and jail expansion and YES to alternatives that keep us all safe and support our livelihood and well-being.

At the hearing, Supervisor Jane Kim said it best when she stated: “I just don’t want us to go down the path of picking what is simplest and easiest for us, what we have always done, which is just to rebuild a jail. I think we should absolutely question it and try to do better.”

The time is now to change this conversation locally, statewide and nationally. Jails are violent, unsafe and exacerbate the problems they are set up to purportedly fix. This is the time to invest in the future of San Francisco, to stand together and demand that there be NO NEW SF JAIL.

Another San Francisco is possible. To learn more, go to www.nonewsfjail.wordpress.com.

Coral Feigin is an organizer with Critical Resistance Oakland and the Western Regional Advocacy Project. She can be reached at coral@wraphome.org.

What you can do

Before the showdown at the Board of Supervisors at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 15, call and email the supervisors to demand they vote NO on the jail proposal! Some are strongly opposed, and others are wavering. Four supervisors – Mar, Kim, Campos and Avalos – have stood strong in opposition to the jail, and we thank them for their critical leadership.

But we need to pressure the other supervisors to join them in supporting a strong, healthy and safe San Francisco. Please call or email

Sign these petitions:

Open letter from Twitter employee denounces tech giant’s role in new SF jail, gentrification

by Mohamed Shehk, No New SF Jail Coalition, #NoNewSFJail

San Francisco – On Dec. 7, a Twitter employee anonymously published an open letter denouncing the tech giant’s “silence and complicity” in the sweeping changes facing San Francisco, particularly around a controversial $240 million jail project.

“The jail in question for replacement, at 850 Bryant St., is just around the corner from our headquarters. While only one small issue in the matrix of local policy, it is emblematic of a broader sweep of changes remaking San Francisco in an effort to cater to young technology workers,” read the letter, which was posted on Imgur. “Twitter is not a neutral party to the changes sweeping San Francisco.”

The letter’s publication coincided with an action where activists dropped a banner featuring Twitter’s logo and the #NoNewSFJail hashtag from a freeway overpass at Eighth Street in San Francisco.

“Twitter is not a neutral party to the changes sweeping San Francisco.”

The letter also condemns the anti-Black racism at the company as well as in the city of San Francisco more broadly, referring to a widely circulated letter by Leslie Miley, a former Twitter employee who quit his job over issues of race. “If we cannot support African-American employees within our company, it is no surprise (no matter how disappointing) that we would quietly allow the disproportionate jailing of Black San Franciscans, who make up 3 percent of San Francisco’s general population but 56 percent of people in its jails,” reads the letter. “How can educated people remain oblivious to such enormous racial discrepancies in our own city?”

Opposition to the jail has been rising dramatically, as city leaders are slated to decide on the project on Tuesday, Dec. 15, at 2 p.m. in Room 200, City Hall.

“How can educated people remain oblivious to such enormous racial discrepancies in our own city?”

Mohamed Shehk, media and communications director for Critical Resistance, a national grassroots organization working to abolish the prison industrial complex, is a spokesperson for the No New SF Jail Coalition. He can be reached at Critical Resistance, 1904 Franklin St., Suite 504, Oakland, CA 94612, 510-444-0484 or mohamed@criticalresistance.org.

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