Wednesday, October 17, 2007

No Vacancy!

Full Jails + Tight Budgets = Early Releases.

Okay, we get it. Gavin’s got no room and no budget to house the homeless (behind bars).

San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey says he's forced to let theives and addicts go free - essentially reversing the Mayor's "services or citation" programs into a "catch and release" revolving door.
Only, Homelessness, Drugs and Homicides aren't going away.
Nor are the Drugs, Prostitution, Panhandling and defication that seed AIDS, Malaria and TB outbreaks associated with the squalar, squatting under bridges, over sidewalks and in our doorways - thereby living amongst us in our living rooms and at our throat.
Just like subsidized flu shots, helping alcoholics, addicts or otherwise helps everyone – most importantly voters!
Not just San Franciscans stand to benefit by helping those who don't want our help. Slightly, this is a national issue central to our City in which Gavin most stands to profit.

Neighsayers, would argue Gavin’s criminalizing the homeless in order to serve big business or ride the pendulum swing of public reaction.
They’re right, but with a caveat...
  • Firstly, the “Services or Citation” approach is completely appropriate. It takes a badge and a stick, not a carrot to pull this rabbit out of a hat. Nine out of homeless refuse housing and shelter.

  • Next, it's Gavin's not the Chaplain on M.A.S.H or Mahatma Gandhi. He's a politician running for election - four year's from now! San Francisco 2007 was never a question: rather, he’s running for the next big thing far outside The City limits with a constituency infinitely more conservative... and we all stand to benefit!

  • Lastly, it behooves San Franciscans to help Gavin, help us by harnessing these quality-of-life arrests to not only make a difference in the perpetrators (them) lives, but to make a difference for the victims (us).
“We want to walk down the street with no danger on our back and no hand out in our face!”
I propose we benevolently house the homeless in a tent city at Golden Gate Park for the duration of their sentences. This way we can minimize cost through centralizing volunteers and professionals to feed, clothe, shelter the homeless and beyond – diagnosing and counseling individuals towards behavioral, drug and educational programs they would otherwise reject.

Homelessness is at epidemic high impacting everyone in any endeavor. You can’t run from it, so stand up and fight... and help our fair mayor get re-elected anyplace, but here.

Truth is I like Newsom. I recognize myself in his mistakes. I think he's reconciling the not so distant past and is finally acting with the urgency and leadership we need. Hopefully, he's making some noise at Federal and State level too.

Matier & Ross writes:

While the public clamors for safer streets and a crackdown on quality-of-life crimes, San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey is quietly allowing scores of drug users and petty thieves to walk out of jail early so they don't have to sleep on the floor.

The early releases were ordered last week even as all but one wing of a 360-bed County Jail at San Bruno sat empty, the result of budget and staff shortages.

It's just the latest wrinkle in San Francisco's revolving-door justice system, and it helps explain why - despite the public furor - it's so hard to keep petty criminals behind bars.

"If they keep bringing more people in for low-risk crimes, at some point I'm not even going to take them, and that point is coming up pretty darn soon."
The sheriff says he's housing about 2,100 prisoners in a 2,000-bed jail system. For the past few months, an average of 50 to 60 prisoners have slept on the floor, with others stashed in temporary police lockups.

Hennessey says his hands are tied. In fact, he says the jailhouse crunch would have been far worse had he not already shaved as much as 30 days off the sentences of thousands of other low-risk prisoners over the past two years under a parole program that most other jurisdictions rarely invoke.

To help ease crowding, Hennessey has opened one 60-bed wing of the empty County Jail No. 5 in San Bruno - but in the process is burning up his overtime budget. The jail, built in 1989, had been shut since the city opened a state-of-the-art replacement last year for the 550-bed Jail No. 3, a Depression-era hulk that was the subject of prisoner-rights lawsuits.
"You can't continue to crack down on drugs, crack down on the homeless and make more typical drunk-driving and violent-offender arrests without having the jail space to put them in; and you can't keep hiring more cops - who if they're doing their jobs are going to make more arrests - without having the space."
For his part, Mayor Gavin Newsom is "committed to pursuing a variety of options" to address the overcrowding, a spokesman said. Those include home detention monitoring and residential drug treatment.

"It's not just a matter of locking them up," spokesman Nathan Ballard said.

Until the city finds the money and answers, however, Hennessey says he'll keep releasing prisoners early.

Complete Article: S.F. jails' tight budget means early release for petty criminals

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