A Majority of Board of Supervisors Support Legislation to Close SF’s Juvenile Hall by December 2021


A Majority of the Board of Supervisors Support Legislation Authored by Supervisors Walton, Ronenand Haney to Close San Francisco’s Juvenile Hall by December 2021


Tuesday, April 9 2019

Press Contacts: Sup.Walton’s Office: Tracy Gallardo 415-509-7266 tracy.gallardo@sfgov.org; Sup.Ronen’s Office: Carolyn Goossen 415-370-5621 carolyn.goossen@sfgov.org; Sup.Haney’s Office: Abigail Rivamonte Mesa 415-964-6120, abigail.rivamontemesa@sfgov.org; Young Women’s Freedom Center: Jessica Nowlan 510-689-7310 jessica@youngwomenfree.org

SAN FRANCISCO – A majority of the Board of Supervisors have signed onto legislation that will be introduced at today’s Board of Supervisors meeting to require the closure of San Francisco’s Juvenile Hall by December2021. Supervisors Shamann Walton, Hillary Ronen and Matt Haney authored the legislation, and Supervisors Gordon Mar, Aaron Peskin and Sandra Lee Fewer have signed on as co-sponsors.

The ordinance mandates that the Board of Supervisors close Juvenile Hall at 375 Woodside by December 2021, and in its place develop an expanded array of alternatives to incarceration for young people who do not need to be legally detained. The ordinance will also create a small rehabilitative non-institutional center in San Francisco for the small minority of young people who must be in a secure facility due to state law. A twelve person implementation working group will convene for the next two and a half years to attain these goals.

“This legislation is about dismantling the youth prison model and creating in its place a reform strategy that is designed to meet the needs of each youth while supporting them in their own communities,” said Supervisor Walton. “Incarceration is harmful and completely ineffective. I believe that any form of youth jail is detrimental to youth development andfurthers trauma. I know from firsthand experience that all you learn in the hall is how to prepare to survive in prison. Youth need mentoring, services and support- not time alone in a cell,” said Walton.

This legislation comes on the heels of a San Francisco Chronicle investigative report on plummeting youth crimes state wide. In San Francisco, violent felony juvenile arrest rates have declined by over 87percent since 1990. The Chronicle report also documented the shockingly highamount of money that jurisdictions are spending on near-empty juvenile hallsacross California, including in San Francisco.

Members, Board of Supervisors City and County of SanFrancisco Districts 10, 9 and 6

“San Francisco spends over 13 million dollars a year – more than $270,000 per child – to lock kids up in a Juvenile Hall that is 75 percent empty, and that research shows is highly ineffective at rehabilitating youth.This is a stunning misuse of funds,” said Supervisor Hillary Ronen. “This legislation creates a mandate that the City re-direct those funds into interventions and a small rehabilitative center that actually work.”

One study from the Arkansas Division of Youth Services identified detention itself as the single most significant factor in predicting whether a youth will offend again—more so than family difficulties or gang membership. Another recent study from Brown University and MIT found that incarcerating young people increased the likelihood that they would go to jail as an adult by 23 percent.

“Separating children from their families and holding them in jail-like environments in jumpsuits and handcuffs is outdated, morally reprehensible, and ineffective,” said Supervisor Matt Haney. “San Francisco should instead commit to innovative, community-based solutions for our court-involved children and discontinue our reliance on a near-empty, outrageously expensive jail for kids,” Haney emphasized.

This legislation and campaign to close Juvenile Hall is also the culmination of nearly two decades of organizing by impacted community members, who have consistently demanded that the City fund and implement alternatives to a Juvenile Hall.

“We envision a San Francisco where safety does not mean putting youth in cages, and where communities are trusted to have the solutions,” said Jessica Nowlan, Executive Director of Young Women’s FreedomCenter. “Youth and families have been calling for reform for years, and can’t afford to wait. San Francisco can lead the state and the nation in modeling a new approach to youth justice and development—one that invests in children and communities so they can thrive.”

Joceyln Mati, a youth who spent time at San Francisco’s Juvenile who is now involved with the Young Women’s Freedom Center shared her thoughts, “San Francisco has so many services and groups for youth. We should not have to go to juvenile hall to access them. As someone who has been in the hall and now helps other young people in the system, I am grateful that six San Francisco Supervisors are working to shut it down.”

“For too long, we have been placing our young people in large, institutional detention facilities that run counter to everything we have come to know about positive youth development and trauma. I believe that the days of big juvenile halls should be behind us and I am eager to start this important conversation,” said District Attorney George Gascon.



Members, Board of Supervisors City and County of SanFrancisco Districts 10, 9 and 6

1) Mandate that the Board of Supervisors close Juvenile Hallat 375 Woodside by December 2021, and instead develop a) an expanded array of alternatives to incarceration and b) a small, rehabilitative non-institutional center for the small minority of young people who cannot safely be released into the community and who must be detained as per state law.

2) Create a 12 person implementation working group made up of key city agencies, juvenile justice experts and community representatives that will meet regularly for two and a half years to meet the December 2021 deadline. Specifically this group shall:

-Conduct a thorough needs assessment of every young person who is being detained

-Identify what existing programs serving this population ofyouth need strengthening and/or expansion

-Identify what new services and programs, including home options, must be created

-Design and create a small non-institutional secure center in San Francisco for the minority of youth who must be detained as required by state law. Local experts estimate San Francisco will need a 10-15 bed center, but the final size will be determined by the Working Group

-Reassign the workforce that currently staffs the juvenile hall to other City employment

-Create a “Youth Justice Reinvestment Fund” that redirects funds historically allocated for Juvenile Hall to community-based alternatives to detention,the secure youth center, and additional mental health and academic supports for juvenile justice-involved youth

A large Juvenile Hall is no longer needed. Youth crime has steadily declined over 20 years. In San Francisco,violent felony juvenile arrest rates have declined by over 87 percent since1990. Statewide, the violent felony juvenile arrest rate dropped by about 67percent since 1995. In 2018, on average, two-thirds of the beds at Juvenile Hall were empty every day. In December 2018, for example, 40 children were detained at juvenile hall, filling only 27% of its 150 beds. Thirty percent of these 40 children were being held on a misdemeanor offense, awaiting trial. Half of the children were there post-disposition, awaiting their court-ordered placement.

Detaining children is ineffective. Research has shown that incarcerating young people does not make our community safer, but does the opposite. In a recent study, researchers at Brown University and MIT found that incarcerating young people increased the likelihood that they would go to jail as an adult by 23 percent. It is in fact the single biggest predictor of future incarceration. One recent longitudinal study of 35,000 young offenders found that those who were incarcerated as juveniles were twice as likely to go on to be locked up as adults as those who committed similar offenses and came from similar backgrounds but were given an alternative sanction or simply not arrested.

Detaining children at Juvenile Hall is a huge waste of City funds. The budget for Juvenile Hall does not reflect today’s low numbers of incarcerated youth. In fiscal year2017-2018 the City budgeted $13,322,254 for Juvenile Hall despite the significantly reduced number of incarcerated youth. The average annual cost per year for each youth detained has risen 127% in the last 10 years; from $123,400in 2009 to $279,500 in January 2019, even though the number of youth detained has plummeted.

The majority of detained children have mental health issues. In December 2018, ninety-percent of the children in Juvenile Hall suffered from mental health issues.Almost a third were being administered psychotropic medications. And during the last quarter of 2018, 4 incarcerated youth had to be hospitalized outside of the facility for medical or mental health care.

Jailing children is a civil rights issue. Black youth make up 4.9% of all children under 18 in San Francisco, and yet 55% of the children booked in Juvenile Hall in 2018 were Black. Latino and Pacific Islander youth are also consistently over-represented, while white children are rarely incarcerated in Juvenile Hall. The majority of youth come from the highest poverty areas in San Francisco.