SF receives grant infusion focused on criminal justice reforms

We don’t need to cough up $80 million-plus to build a new jail in San Francisco, say a widely growing band of criminal law reformers.

What the group – which encompasses judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys and increasing numbers of California police/probationary officers and other individuals – stresses as an urgently needed alternative to more jail cells is this: behind-bars alternatives to many offenders that will keep them out of jail in the first place.

Jail is simply a wrong notion to far too many people, stresses a rapidly growing – and bipartisan – coalition of justice insiders who command an inside look at jail overcrowding and inappropriate processing that unfairly treats legions of individuals.

A recent in-depth media piece on $2 million in grant money recently received by San Francisco to continue implementing criminal justice reforms notes this: The city’s current and aged jail is stuffed on an average day with about 1,300 inmates. Close to four of every 10 offenders receive some type of mental health treatment.

That should sound alarm bells and compel immediate change, say critics of a long-held lock-them-up philosophy that does not address the root causes of why many individuals are interacting with the justice system in the first place.

San Francisco recently received a $2 million grant from the seminal Macarthur Foundation to continue on a demonstrated reform path aimed at purposeful systemic changes. Officials are hoping their efforts will yield more rational outcomes for many offenders (especially low-level nonviolent individuals, many who have addiction-linked problems), a lower recidivism rate for released offenders and decreased upkeep costs for taxpayers.

City District Attorney George Gascon says that the Macarthur grant “is really a down payment to … determine what kind of facilities we need in the future.”

The hope of many is that a material reform outcome will promote a system that is more focused on rehabilitation and offender reassimilation than on mere punishment alone.

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