Over the past two months, San Francisco Pretrial Diversion Project (SF Pretrial) has been operating at full capacity and working with local justice partners to reduce our local jail population. At a time when detention settings pose grave risk to public health, effective community programming has been critical. Through collective efforts, San Francisco’s jail population has decreased by over 400 individuals since February 26. At the same time, SF Pretrial’s caseload volume has increased by 250, amounting to a total client population of 1184. Our most intensive level of supervision, Assertive Case Management (ACM), has grown to an all-time high of 579 clients. As we continue to provide supportive, individualized services, we prioritize safety and security for clients, staff, and the general public. Our response to COVID-19 has required basic operational adjustments to account for social distancing, personal protective equipment, and responsible hygiene practices, and expedient identification of community programs and resources for our most vulnerable clients.
SF Pretrial Client Narrative: Barry
One client in particular has exemplified the unique challenges our justice system faces in addressing health and safety. After spending a month in custody Barry was released to SF Pretrial’s ACM program. When our staff picked him up from the jail, his significant health concerns and underlying conditions came into full focus. In addition to being an elderly gentleman, he divulged that he has back problems and a severe chronic illness. To make matters more complicated, a legal order barred him from returning to his place of residence, meaning he could not retrieve some of his most needed possessions. Barry was left without his wallet, ID, back brace, clothing, and crucial medication for his illness. Moreover, because Barry could not return to his home, he needed immediate housing resources. This client, like many others dealing with the trauma of incarceration, was not immediately amenable to our help. Being prohibited from returning to his residence was a shock and caused him, understandably, to be angry and uncooperative.
In response to these barriers, SF Pretrial staff coordinated with the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office to build an action plan. First, the Public Defender’s Office sent a representative to the client’s apartment, who gained access, used FaceTime to navigate the space, and identified which items the client needed. While he waited at our office, SF Pretrial staff developed compassionate rapport, provided food and hygienic products, built a treatment plan, and began searching for available housing options. After hours of work, SF Pretrial identified available SRO housing to ensure this client did not face the prospect of being on the streets. Pretrial staff escorted him to the SRO, carried his luggage, and helped him get acclimated in his new space. In recent days, the judge’s original protective order has been lifted, and Barry can soon return to his home while he awaits his case resolution.
SF Pretrial is excited to announce 51 new hotel rooms for our clients. We have been fully operational during the COVID-19 pandemic, and have seen firsthand the dangers and detriment clients face when they lack housing in the midst of a public health crisis. Eligibility is based on referrals from the Courts to SF Pretrial’s release and supervision programs.
We’d like to extend special thanks to Adult Probation for funding the rooms and amenities, Tipping Point for a $100,000 grant, and SF New Deal for their donation of restaurant-quality meals that will continue to feed our clients. These new housing units were provided in response to a proposal by the Public Defender, District Attorney, and our agency, and their support for safe and supportive housing for individuals released from jail has been invaluable. SF Pretrial could not adequately serve these clients without funding and support from the Sheriff, Mayor’s Office, Board of Supervisors and our partnerships with the Superior Court, Department of Public Health, Recovery Survival Network and many other community agencies.
Throughout our time working with clients who have been released from jail and await trial, we have seen firsthand the stress and uncertainty that justice involvement creates. These issues are only exacerbated when our clients lack basic resources like housing.
In addition to sustaining shelter and safe hygiene, our new supportive housing units will facilitate individualized client support through onsite case management, support groups, and connections to important community resources. Through SF Pretrial’s partnership with Episcopal Community Services, all of our clients will be interviewed with the goal of situating many of them with a permanent supportive housing solution. By providing a community-based alternative to detention, we can support the reduction of the jail population and focus our efforts on client needs while addressing public safety.
SF Pretrial is proud to partner with the SF Department of Public Works to help keep our city safe, clean and beautiful. Our Project 20 program was recently highlighted as part of their Valentine’s #LoveOurCity campaign. Check out the video and learn about our great work from our very own Devin Jones and Sharon Rose.
Thanks to JusticeLA and the other sponsors for including SF Pretrial in this important discussion.
NCJA Criminal Justice Program Awards!
SF Pretrial was recognized at the annual NCJA Outstanding Criminal Justice Program Awards. The awards were given out at an Awards Luncheon held in conjunction with the 2019 Forum on Criminal Justice. Read their news bulletin to learn more.