Documentary by Public Defender’s Office targets conditions at Tenderloin halfway house

Film is first created through project founded by late Public Defender Jeff Adachi

Keith “Malik” Washington is editor of the San Francisco Bayview newspaper (Courtesy photo)

Keith “Malik” Washington is editor of the San Francisco Bayview newspaper (Courtesy photo)

A new documentary made with help from the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office aims to shed light on the conditions of a halfway house in the city’s Tenderloin neighborhood amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 11-minute film, “One Eleven Taylor,” documents what the public defender’s office says are dangerous conditions at the re-entry center located at 111 Taylor St.

The film documents residents’ experiences as they struggle with what they say is a lack of COVID-19 protocols at the facility, which is run by the GEO Group, a company that operates private prisons and rehabilitation centers across the world. Because the residents there are on parole, the only other alternative to staying there is going back to jail for violating parole.

“The conditions at 111 Taylor are extremely troubling, and this film is just a glimpse into what is a larger, ongoing pattern of abusive practices and crises created by private prison corporations like GEO Group,” San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju said in a statement.

The facility is also the subject of a lawsuit filed by Keith “Malik” Washington, an incarcerated journalist who is chief editor of the San Francisco Bayview, who lives in the halfway house. Washington alleges that after he told a journalist at 48 Hills about a COVID-19 outbreak in the facility, his phone was confiscated and he was prohibited from speaking to the media or attend press conferences. He also had credits for good behavior revoked, affecting his release date, according to his attorney.

“State and federal governments need to stop awarding lucrative contracts to private prison corporations, as time and time again we witness how they fail to protect the safety and wellbeing of the people in their custody and in the community. We have fought to release our clients from this location, but that is only a temporary and partial remedy to a larger solution — which is to put an end to for-profit prisons and reentry centers altogether and invest in community-based program that understand and prioritize the needs of the people and communities they serve,” Raju said.

The film was created through The Adachi Project, an initiative between the Public Defender’s Office and production company Compound to highlight stories pertaining to the U.S. criminal legal system. The initiative was founded in honor of late Public Defender Jeff Adachi, who directed multiple documentaries himself.

The GEO Group did not respond to a request for comment.

UPDATE:

CEO group responded on Friday, Feb. 19, 2021 with the following statement:

“We reject the inaccurate and misleading allegations made by the resident depicted in the One Eleven Taylor short film. While the COVID-19 pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges, from the beginning we have taken proactive measures to ensure the health and safety of those in our care and our employees,” GEO officials said in a statement.

The company said it has taken several measures to ensure the safety of residents and employees across all of it’s facilities, such as providing residents access to soap and water for regular handwashing; increased cleaning protocols; encouraging social distancing; and providing personal protective equipment.

“We also make continuous improvements in our pandemic response as updated guidance is received from the Centers for Disease Control (and Prevention). The health and safety of our staff and residents have always been and remains our number one priority,” GEO officials said.

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