Creating an Accountable Criminal Justice System

Statement by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas on the Jail Plan

“While there is consensus about demolishing Men’s Central Jail, the more important question of what should replace it, and how this would fit into our comprehensive strategy for criminal justice reform, remains unresolved. That is not surprising, since the Board of Supervisors’ thinking on that strategy is still evolving.

“Our intention to pivot away from a model that simply warehouses the mentally ill is clear. But deciding what to put in its place requires a thoughtful and deliberative approach, particularly since I am envisioning an accountable criminal justice system that guarantees public safety, diverts the mentally ill to treatment when appropriate, and holds people liable for breaking the law while providing humane treatment and rehabilitative services intended to prevent recidivism.

As we consider how to move forward, we should take advantage of several soon-to-be-released reports by experts in the field, and factor in the potential impact of pending initiatives such as bail reform. We should also build on the successes of the County’s psychiatric urgent care centers, mental evaluation teams, the sobering center – all created within the last few years; the Office of the Diversion and Reentry, whose work is being scaled up; and the MLK Behavioral Health Center, which will open in 2020. We are only beginning to realize all the benefits of those investments and still have much to learn.

“As responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars, we need to take the time to do this right and ensure we make the most of this investment, not only in financial resources but, more importantly, in human lives.”