A San Francisco board decided on Tuesday to reject the construction of a new jail in the city following a two year activist campaign pushing for prison abolition.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors decided it would not go ahead with a grant of $80 million in order to fund the planned maximum security prison. The board’s president London Breed said she seeks new alternatives to mass incarceration and the criminalization of mental illness and homelessness, which most often target people of color.
“We are not going to support a stand alone prison to continue to lock up African Americans and Latinos in this city," Breed said at a rally on Monday, reported SF Weekly.
“We are not going to continue to lock up people who have mental illness and clearly need to be treated. We are not going to continue to lock up people who have substance abuse problems that need the kind of treatment that only a facility that specializes in those kinds of problems offer. We need to be better.”
The decision comes after two years of tireless campaigning by the No New SF Jail Coalition, an alliance of community organizations who have advocated for investing resources into public housing, healthcare and education.
“This is truly a victory for communities in San Francisco and people fighting jail construction everywhere,” Lisa Marie Alatorre, an organizer at the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness, said in a press release.
“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.”
Activists have denounced the mass incarceration economy for disproportionately targeting people of color, the homeless, and those with a mental illness. While only 3 to 5 percent of San Francisco is Black, they account for over 56 percent of the jail population. People that are homeless, meanwhile, make up 28 percent of inmates. As much as 80 percent of inmates are kept on bail but cannot afford their own release.
“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.”