Frequently Asked Questions


The Sheriff does more than just oversee six jails with an average daily population of 2,200 inmates. The Sheriff’s Department is an integral part of the criminal justice system. The jails are places of transition– where individuals both enter and exit the criminal justice system. But the Sheriff’s job is not to operate a revolving door. Where people go, and what they do, when they leave jail greatly affects our public safety. The Sheriff’s Department oversees rehabilitation programs and services to support people when they leave jail in order to keep them from returning.

Much of my career has been spent in some sort of public safety occupation–from law enforcement to environmental investigation. As an armed investigator in the SF District Attorney’s Office, my early law enforcement work focused on prosecution—helping the DA’s office achieve successful convictions. As Supervisor, I inherited a District of high crime and low expectations. I worked with community groups and city government to reclaim neighborhoods from serious crime and tackle its roots. As a result of my insistence for community policing and rehabilitation programs in distressed areas, my District experienced the biggest drop in violent crime citywide.

I’ve worked at the entrance to criminal justice system and at the exit. Now, I want to work in the middle to address the revolving door of recidivism – we’re simply throwing away taxpayer dollars and front-loading the police budgets by re-arresting the same offenders nearly 3 out of 4 times. This is not efficient or effective public safety.


Improve Public Safety in San Francisco: Throughout the city, our neighborhood safety is entwined with the repeat offender rate, which hovers at 64 percent for those exiting from the county jails, and 77 percent for inmates returning from the state prison system. California cities like San Francisco are front-loading general fund police budgets at ballooning costs only to see the same felons arrested over and over again. This dysfunctional merry-go-round must be stopped. We need better assessments of each inmate as candidates for rehabilitation/diversion programs or incarceration.
Make Public Safety Realignment Work: San Francisco needs to step up its approach to effective rehabilitation and reentry. However, compared to many counties in California, San Francisco does a better job of tackling repeat offender rates. California has failed to properly deal with a prison population that is per capita larger than any country in the world. San Francisco is one of the few counties not experiencing over-crowding in our jails. We will be able to absorb between 400 and 600 additional inmates returned from the state – with approximately half going into jail and the remainder into diversion programs. Effective diversion is key to saving money so that both the Sheriff’s and Adult Probation Departments will be funded sufficiently. To date, barely 30 percent of the funding will be allocated to San Francisco by the newly signed 2011-2012 state budget. As Sheriff, I will advocate relentlessly for funds, as promised by the state. Additionally, I will work with our state legislative representatives to assure that local governments are full partners with the state in implementation of public safety realignment.

Save the City Money – Help SFPD: Without depleting staffing resources, the Sheriff’s Department can assist the SFPD in shared duties. This will use public safety funding more efficiently because the difference in salary/benefits between deputy sheriffs compared to that of a police officer is almost 23 percent. Freeing up police officers from tasks that deputy sheriffs can perform will not only save money, but will also help SFPD focus on more critical law enforcement objectives.

Pilot Memorandums Of Understanding (MOUs) between the SFSD and SFPD can be implemented on several fronts, including:

Transferring prisoners from district police stations to jail;
Guarding prisoners while at SF General Hospital or at court;
Assisting with special events patrol and crowd management.


AB 109, Public Safety Realignment, presents a dramatic shift in responsibilities for felons from the State to county jails. To address the unconstitutional conditions in California’s overcrowded penal system, under Realignment, most non-serious, non-violent offenders with 3-year maximum sentences, no prior strikes and not required to register as sex offenders will now serve time in the county jails rather than state prisons. Counties will have several options to manage the increased pressure on their jails through sentence reductions, home detention and electronic monitoring in lieu of bail. The State is also pulling back on supervising parolees, leaving the county to provide up to 3 years of community supervision.

The San Francisco County jail system will see an increase of 400-600 inmates. California has failed to deal properly with a prison population that is per capita larger than any country in the world. San Francisco is one of the few counties that isn’t experiencing over-crowding in our jails. We will be able to absorb most of these additional inmates, with approximately half going into jail and the remainder into diversion programs. Effective diversion is important to save money so that both the Sheriff’s and Adult Probation Departments will be funded sufficiently.

As Sheriff, I will advocate relentlessly for funds, as promised by the State to pay for these increased responsibilities. To date, for FY 2011-2012, barely 30 percent of the necessary funding has been allocated to San Francisco in the state budget.

Realignment will become operative October 1, 2011. In order to prepare, we must continue to plan for the transition of people and keep pressure on the state to transition adequate funds.

We actually began planning for this transition years ago. Between 2005 and 2007, I vigorously pushed the city to support restorative justice strategies, recognizing that what happens inside our local jail system directly affects public safety throughout San Francisco, especially in neighborhoods that are host to the highest percentage of parolees and probationers. Recidivism is at 65%.

From 2005 until 2008, there were two ad hoc reentry councils focused on different aspects of the reentry of people from prisons and jails to San Francisco communities. In 2008, I authored legislation unifying and strengthening these ad hoc councils through the creation of the Reentry Council of the City and County of San Francisco (see San Francisco Administrative Code 5.1), to coordinate local efforts to support adults leaving incarceration. The Council coordinates information sharing, planning, and engagement among all interested private and public stakeholders to the extent permissible under federal and state law.

As Chair of the Public Safety Committee, I’ve held three hearings on prisoner realignment, and sponsored three laws that enable the City, and particularly, Adult Probation and the Sheriff to prepare for an unprecedented test – the infusion of approximately 700 inmates, low- level felons, into the SF County jail system. Each prisoner must assessed to determine whether they warrant incarceration, or diversion, or home detention (electronic monitoring).

In July 2011, the Community Corrections Partnership, an interdepartmental agency established by state law, chaired by the Chief Probation Officer, and the Public Safety Committee recommended, a 28-page plan outlining how San Francisco will implement Public Safety Realignment. City & County of San Francisco Public Safety Realignment & Post Release Community Supervision 2011 Implementation Plan

I will work with the State to ensure that county ideas and needs are heard in Sacramento as we all move forward to implement Realignment. Recently, the California Legislative Analyst’s Office released: LAO Report: 2011 Realignment Addressing Issues to Promote Its Long-Term Success. In assessing the realignment plan adopted by the legislature, the LAO makes several thoughtful recommendations, with which I agree:

Develop local funding allocations that are responsive to changes in county demographics, not just historical data;

Structure county realignment accounts to provide program flexibility;

Enact a statutory scheme that allows local governments flexibility in responding to local needs and preferences, encourages innovation;

Standardize reporting data statewide to promote local accountability and provide uniform outcome measures that can be compared between counties in order to better discern best practices.

Recidivism is the revolving door of repeat offenders moving through our criminal justice system. Throughout the city, our neighborhood safety is inextricably entwined to the repeat offender rate–which is about 64 percent from the county jails and 77 percent for inmates from the state penal system. This dysfunctional merry-go-round must be stopped. In order to effectively target reentry programs, we must look at who enters the system and who keeps coming back. Unfortunately, most reentry programs in San Francisco exist on grant funding. This provides a stark reminder that we must make a more enthusiastic commitment to their sustainability.
I will build on the foundation laid by Sheriff Mike Hennessey. I understand the power of redemption and the need to manage the volatile, high-risk population that chronically challenges public safety in San Francisco. Locking people up and simply hoping they rehabilitate themselves by their release date does not work. We need only look to the failed California penal system to see how this plan is unsuccessful.

Recidivism on a larger scale can no longer be treated as an afterthought –especially given the economic implications it has on our state budget. We’re simply throwing away taxpayer dollars and front-loading police budgets by re-arresting the same offenders nearly 3 out of 4 times. This is not efficient or effective public safety.

As Sheriff, I will work to synchronize service delivery with City criminal justice partners by:

Spreading out custody programs throughout the City in the neighborhoods where our clients live;

Providing child care to both male and female offenders so they can work on their recovery without worrying about their children;

Making sure programs are both culturally relevant and gender responsive;

Providing a safe environment with empathetic case managers to assure successful reentry as well as increase the likelihood of long term sobriety;

Increasing best practice trainings for both sworn and civilian staff;

Increasing the presence of 12 Step groups in the jails and provide meeting space to like-minded groups in the community to assure that our clients have as much access to self-help recovery;

Building and nurturing inmate centered programs where the inmates are held accountable to themselves and each other for the success of their program and individual recovery;

Making the programs more accessible to a larger portion of our population;

Increasing volunteer and community involvement in jails.

Sheriff Hennessey pioneered a new role for the county jail system over the last 30 years. The jails are no longer just a warehouse for people, as if inmates will rehabilitate themselves by the time of their release. Facing of significant opposition at times, Sheriff Hennessey developed many rehabilitative programs designed to assist ex-offenders to successfully return to their communities upon release from jail. There are a wide variety of Reentry programs designed to provide: education, job training, substance abuse counseling, case management, mental health care and anger management all with the goal of helping soon-to-be ex-offenders acquire the skills to reclaim or find a productive place in their communities. The capacity of these programs is directly connected to the availability of funds and resources.

As Supervisor, I successfully secured a $1 million grant from the State Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to help us create the Sheriff’s NoVA Program — a landmark program for violent felons. I also authored the creation of San Francisco’s first Reentry Council – obligating all local government and nonprofit stakeholders to collectively address the challenges of reentry.

As Sheriff, I will strengthen Reentry services. There are renowned programs like the Women’s Reentry Center; Cover Program, RSVP (violent/nonviolent felons); Five Keys Charter School; NoVA; Garden Project, and more that deserve a stable future. I will institute a thorough audit system for programs so we learn more than just success/failure rates of offenders who repeat.

There is a strong need to strengthen and develop programs related to the following populations:

Building on the One Family program model – domestic re-integration for multiple family members who are incarcerated at the same time (example: father and son), working with children whose parent(s) are incarcerated, as well as post release community re-integration training to assist with reuniting families;

Transgender and LGBT populations are in serious need of specialized programming and improved support while incarcerated;

Project Breakthrough for young adults needs more robust workforce placement and training system for post release preparation – the one current staffer is insufficient.

Addressing inmates’ specific mental health needs requires a specialized strategy. I will seek additional resources for those suffering from mental health issues by working more closely with the public health and psychiatric care community. We also have to collaborate with outside providers to provide more effective monitoring during the probationary process.
As Sheriff, I will:

House inmates with mental health issues at San Bruno and CJ 2, not at the Hall of Justice;

Expand Jail Psych Services to 24 hour coverage, rather than the current 8 to 10 hours per day. This is crucial in light of the anticipated influx of prisoners from the state penal system where the courts have found the treatment of mental health conditions to be inadequate;

Upgrade the Jail Psych Services Budget which is insufficient under the Department of Public Health. Considering the inmate suicide rate and chronic need for specialized attention, I will pursue the development of a more modernized budget.

Inmates with disabilities are housed at County Jail #2 and #5, which have accessible bathrooms and wheelchair accessibility. The average population of inmates with physical disabilities over the last three years is approximately between 10 to 13 inmates. 
As the census shows, the fastest growing population in San Francisco is a population over age 60. Like the City, the county jail system is ill-prepared to deal with the needs of this escalating demographic.
As Sheriff, I will create a Jail Advocate for Seniors and Disabled to work both in-house with a focus on the protection of inmates who may be at risk from a younger population, and in the community post-release since it’s already very difficult to obtain housing, employment and proper health care, including geriatric care. We need an advocate who is trained to assist two very specialized populations both inside and outside the jail system.

We must not only enlarge jail health services and programs designed for those inmates who are seniors and/or those with a disability, but Reentry and rehabilitation services for these two populations.


“Secure Communities” is the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) program that requires counties to send the fingerprints of all people who are booked into jail to immigration officials, who in turn target undocumented immigrants for deportation. This program casts a very wide net–capturing individuals at the time they are arrested before they are convicted of a crime. Previously, only individuals convicted of a crime were reported to ICE. To date, 70 % of the 41,833 people who have been deported since the program’s inception in May 2009, had no criminal record, or had non-criminal offenses like traffic tickets.
This actually works against public safety, making members of immigrant communities afraid to participate with local law enforcement, hindering the reporting and investigation of criminal activity. Making local law enforcement an arm of federal immigration enforcement erodes hard-earned trust. Members of immigrant communities are reluctant to report crimes like domestic violence, or be witnesses in the investigation and prosecution of crimes for fear of deportation. This leaves us all more vulnerable to crime.

Sheriff Hennessey demonstrated significant courage by calling attention, long before any other elected official, to this counterproductive federal practice and opted out of the program. The federal government said “no can do.” But a year later, a number of local elected officials and state governors from New York, Illinois and Massachusetts, have joined the growing chorus in the need to exercise discretion by opting out of this dysfunctional and expensive program.

On the Board of Supervisors, I authored resolutions in support of San Francisco’s right to opt-out of Secure Communities. Although complicated and not popular as an issue nationwide, I will follow Sheriff Hennessey’s example by dissenting against ICE and calling attention to the dysfunctional and harmful practices by ICE.

In response to the criticisms raised by state and local officials, on August 5, the federal government decided that it could unilaterally implement this program, without state consent. Now fingerprints sent to the FBI database will also be run against the ICE data base for immigration violations, if there is a match, ICE will determine whether to detain the individual.

As Sheriff, I will continue to advocate for adequate due process protections. There are too many examples of people, including witnesses and victims being deported, even after preliminary charges are dropped or case circumstances changed. I will work with other local law enforcement officials to push back against the consequences of federal government policies that actually harm the safety of our communities.

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