Push to close SF's 850 Bryant St. Jail, but where will inmates go?

San Francisco is staring down the debate over what to do about a deteriorating jail that sits atop the city's Hall of Justice. 

City leadership is struggling with what to do with the inmates in a jail everyone seems to agree needs to be shutdown. 

More than 300 inmates are housed in the jail at 850 Bryant Street, a building that the city has known is seismically unsafe since the 1990s.

The question is, when that jail closes, where do the inmates who are housed there go?

No one argues the point that 850 Bryant, San Francisco's Hall of Justice since the 1960s, has to go. 

The building, declared seismically unsafe in the mid-1990s, still houses the county's criminal courts and a jail on the 7th floor. 

San Francisco is now debating what to do with the 300 plus inmates the jail holds, since the the mayor has called for the inmates to be rehoused by July 2021. 

"We have to close the jail at 850 Bryant," said San Francisco Supervisor Matt Haney. "It is far past time for the city to have a clear plan and timeline to do so."

Supervisor Haney called for a hearing hoping to begin planning what to with the inmates the jail houses. At this point, no one has a plan for where to put them.

Retiring Sheriff Vicki Hennessy saying since the board of supervisors in 2015 rejected a $215 million proposal to build a new jail, there is no plan for those 300 plus inmates. 

At this point, the sheriff said her options are limited. 

With few options, including sending some of the city's inmates out of county to Santa Rita Jail in Alameda County or renovating a jail in San Bruno, the city already owns. Both ideas pose logistical and fiscal problems.

But Hennessy stressed that she too would like to see her deputies and those who are incarcerated there out of 850 Bryant. 
"We still don't know how we're going to do it in terms of having it closed with no place to put people or have people live," Hennessy said.

Activists showed up to the hearing, gathering before and saying the answer isn't building more jails. Instead they are calling for more community-based programs aimed at crime prevention, drug rehabilitation and helping offenders reintegrate into society. 

"80% of those who are in the jail right now are their pretrial, facing exorbitant bail feed," said Shirley Leslie from the No New SF Jail Coalition.

"So, release those people to their community. Release them to the communities they're from."

Supervisor Haney said this is just the beginning of this conversation. The supervisor had hoped to get a better idea on a plan. He said at this point there is no plan, and that is, in his words, is "troubling."