This month I was back at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ Young Artist At Work (YAAW) program to lead a teach-in about the fight against the replacement county jail in San Francisco. The city’s sherriff, Ross Mirkarimi is proposing to replace the current seismically unfit county jails 3 and 4 with a brand new $465 million dollar new jail. He argues that the new jail design allows for more space for rehabilitative programs and will be safer.
However, San Francisco doesn’t need a new jail! The current facilities are only at 65% capacity and through bail reform up to 500 people can be released, therefore making the need for another facility obsolete. And besides, we know there is no such thing as a safe jail. I spoke with the YAAW’s about what ways for them to join our fight against the new jail and what are alternatives to jails; how would they spend $465 million dollars in their own communities?
Later, the YAAW participants wrote letters to their board of supervisors demanding that they vote against the upcoming jail proposal. I hope these letters reach those in power and that the supervisor’s pay attention to the youth of San Francisco and these young leaders! Below are some highlights:
“By supporting the construction of the new jail you are teaching us that building walls is better than breaking them, that segregation is justice. You are teaching me that fear trumps empathy.”
“Shutting down the jail can save us more money to spend on other social welfare programs that can support underserved and at-risk families especially in neighborhoods such as Hunter’s Point-Bayview, and other at-risk communities.”