San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju’s Statement on the Board of Supervisors Legislation to Close CJ4

April 14, 2020

“After months of collaborating with Supervisor Fewer’s office and community partners on the legislation to close County Jail 4, I am proud that it will be introduced at the Board of Supervisors meeting today.

County Jail 4 has been a known public health risk for decades: it has been deemed seismically unsound, people are crammed together in tiny cells, and sewage sometimes backs up into sleeping areas.

The COVID-19 pandemic has raised these urgent concerns to an emergency level. Social distancing and safe “sheltering-in-place” is impossible in conditions where multiple strangers must share one toilet, one sink, and sleep on shared bunk beds. While all congregate living spaces within the jails raise concerns during this pandemic, County Jail 4 has always been by far the worst. 

My office will continue our work to improve conditions inside the jails, while also fighting for people to be released. The most effective way to protect people from COVID-19 continues to be releasing them from jail and allowing them to safely isolate. Our efforts to release as many people as possible from our jail system has helped reduce the population to 40 percent below the average daily population. 

I also want to make clear that there has been a steady decline in crime, arrests, and jail bookings in San Francisco even before the pandemic began. Because of our low levels of crime, and the shrinking jail population, I am confident that we can close this jail without investing in building another jail or sending people out of county. 

The COVID-19 crisis has shined a light on just how important it is for us to be looking at all of our systems, including our public safety systems, through a public health lens. I believe that now, more than ever, we have both the responsibility and the opportunity to reexamine our response to harm and the needs of our community with more dignity and care.”

Mano Raju, San Francisco Public Defender


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