SF County Awarded $80M State Grants to Replace Jails at Hall of Justice

San Francisco was awarded an $80 million grant today by the Board of State and Community Corrections to replace deteriorating city jails at the Hall of Justice, according to city and state officials.

The project, however, faces opposition from community groups and potentially from some supervisors, who must still vote to accept the funds.

The $80 million grant is one-third of the expected $240 million needed to build a proposed new standalone facility to replace Jails Nos. 3 and 4 at the Hall of Justice at 850 Bryant St., according to city officials.

State officials said the project will total 150,000 square feet and have 384 beds, 444 fewer than the present jails.

Unlike the current jails, the smaller center will have space for counseling, computers, classrooms, and vocational training as well as mental health and medical units for mental health and drug treatment, according to the mayor’s office.

“We are not rebuilding a City jail; this is an innovative approach to criminal justice with a focus on rehabilitation and reentry,” Mayor Ed Lee said in a statement today.

City officials said the new center will be 20 percent smaller overall.

“The City’s need for a smaller facility demonstrates our success in providing high-quality rehabilitative programs and alternatives to detention,” Lee’s statement said.

The plans for a new jail are strongly opposed by a coalition of community groups called No New SF Jail. The coalition is made up of groups such as the Coalition on Homelessness and San Francisco Taxpayers for Public Safety.

Citing declining jail populations, the group has argued that the city should instead close the jails altogether and spend more money on diversion and treatment programs to keep people out of jail.

Supervisors Jane Kim, Eric Mar and John Avalos voted in July in favor of an appeal seeking to require an environmental impact review for the project and against the authorization of the city’s grant application for the project.

The grant was authorized under Senate Bill 863, the Adult Local Criminal Justice Facility Financing bill, and a bond program in the state’s 2014-15 budget, state officials and the mayor’s office said.

The grant is conditional upon the county replacing outdated, dense, inmate housing with an improved center that reduces recidivism while protecting public safety.

The City Controller’s Office released a report in June showing that San Francisco’s average daily jail population peaked at 2,321 around 1993 and has since fallen to a current level of around 1,285.

The report cites policy changes including Proposition 47, a 2014 measure changing some nonviolent offenses from felonies to misdemeanors, as contributing to the change.

If built, the new jail would be constructed just east of the San Francisco Hall of Justice, on the site of a former McDonald’s restaurant.

Keith Burbank and Sara Gaiser, Bay City News

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