San Francisco’s plan to build a new jail received a boost Thursday with the announcement by Mayor Ed Lee that The City has secured an $80 million state grant to build the jail.
The proposal has remained a point of controversy for years. But the mayor praised the jail project in a statement Thursday. He said the facility “will provide a safe, secure and humane environment for inmates and staff, and aligns with our City’s rehabilitation and reentry strategies.”
In July, the Board of Supervisors voted 7-3 to authorize the grant application following a heated debate about the need for a new jail. At the time, Supervisor Jane Kim, who opposed the application, said, instead of applying for the funding The City should rethink the criminal justice system.
On Thursday, Kim said she was waiting for a jail assessment by the Department of Public Health analyzing what percentage of the jail population is homeless, suffering from mental illness or substance abuse.
“I want to address the population that is currently in our jails and provide the appropriate facility that will make our city safer,” Kim said. “Do we need a jail or a secure mental health facility, substance abuse clinic and housing?”
The funding was made available to jurisdictions throughout the state under Senate Bill 863. The City’s jail project will replace the existing aging County Jails No. 3 and No. 4 at the Hall of Justice at 850 Bryant St. with a $240 million 384 bed jail on neighboring site.
The City previously applied for similar funding but in 2014 had lost out to 15 other counties that state officials said were better able to demonstrate they had shovel-ready projects.
Construction is scheduled to begin in 2018 and to be completed in early 2021.
Also last July the board rejected an appeal of the project filed by the Californians United for a Responsible Budget, a statewide coalition of groups working to reduce jail population and prisons. The appeal argued that the project would need to undergo an environmental review.
Those on both side of the debate have agreed the existing facilities are in deplorable condition.
There are 905 beds at the Hall of Justice known as County Jail No. 3 and No. 4. Currently only No. 4 is able to be used, holding about 400 inmates.
At the time of the July vote, the jail population was 1,282, down from the 1,976 in 2009.