Sheriff Michael Hennessey attempts to ease jail overcrowding by opening pre-rial detention homes in residential units throughout the city. Residents, Housing Advocated, and Property Owners denounce the use of housing for inmate holding.
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Sheriff’s proposal to ease jail overcrowding blasted
Hennessey’s faces protest, legal threats
Sheriff Michael Hennessey’s idea of easing jail overcrowding by lodging prisoners in civilian residences around town has run into new opposition — even as he plans more such quarters in five neighborhoods almost all over The City.
With protests having stymied his January proposal to quarter inmates in a South of Market hotel, Hennessey has now contracted with a Tenderloin landlord for a 50-bed, pre-trial detention home in a hotel at 111 Taylor St.
In the section of the Planning Commission agenda reserved for public comment on Thursday, North of Market Planning Coalition board member Steven Collier told the commission of Hennessey’s plans, and said his organization has vowed a legal battle in opposition.
“We don’t think the Tenderloin should lose housing to provide a jail facility,” Collier said, and questioned whether such a use is allowed under the neighborhood’s residential-commercial zoning.
“The Sheriff could make the case that it is a public use,” suggested Zoning Administrator Robert Passmore.
“It is an inappropriate use,” declared Commissioner Frank Fung.
Interviewed at his office, Tenderloin Housing Clinic attorney Randy Shaw was indignant that the program had been initiated without the Planning Commission’s permission.
“Once you start putting a jail in residential areas without a hearing, I think people should be alarmed,” Shaw said.
Meanwhile, sheriff spokeswoman Eileen Hirst disclosed that Hennessey is discussing more such programs in the Richmond, Mission, Western Addition and Bayview-Hunters Point areas “rather than place all 100 people in one location.”
With new jail facilities at the Hall of Justice still two years from completion, Hirst noted that The City is being fined $300 per day for every inmate over the city jails’ legal capacity of 1,652.
In January, Hennessey’s attempts to lodge 50 selected pre-trial prisoners in the Pontiac Hotel on Sixth Street were quashed by protests.