Protesters Shut Down Meeting At City Hall On New Jail Proposal

Protesters opposed to plans to build a new jail in San Francisco have shut down a meeting at City Hall today, delaying a key committee vote on the project.

The audience at the Board of Supervisors’ budget and finance committee meeting erupted into chanting and shouting when the jail project came up on the agenda, preventing the discussion from going forward.

Chanting “No new jail!” and “Lift us up don’t lock us out!,” the protesters briefly launched what they called a “people’s public comment,” calling out comments from the floor, but were shouted down by a woman at the back who objected to their disruption of the meeting and said she was waiting for public comment.

“I would like to be heard!” the woman said, shouting over the crowd.

Supervisor Mark Farrell made an attempt to call the crowd to order and open public comment, but was shouted down.

“No vote today! No vote today!” the crowd chanted.

Deputies and city officials stood by and watched the protesters, waiting for the crowd to get quieter, then called the meeting into recess early this afternoon.

The committee was scheduled to vote on plans for a $240 million new jail, including the acceptance of an $80 million state grant, the purchase of property next to the Hall of Justice at 850 Bryant St. and the issuance of city certificates of participation to finance the project.

If the project is approved by the committee, it is expected to proceed to the full board on Dec. 8.

The new jail is intended to replace the current decrepit, seismically unsafe jails in the Hall of Justice and would include fewer beds and more space for inmate programs including counseling, job training and drug and mental health treatment.

Opponents to the jail project have argued that the city should not spend money on a new jail but should instead renovate existing jails in San Bruno and focus on reducing already low incarceration rates through better mental health treatment and pretrial diversion programs.

The San Francisco Sheriff’s Department has said existing jails cannot adequately serve the jail population.

A recent city controller’s report noted that housing more inmates in San Bruno would increase transportation costs and separate many inmates from their families, as well as access to many city-based services.

Sara Gaiser, Bay City News

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