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San Francisco Sheriff says spike in violent incidents at county jails due to overcrowding

Two San Francisco county jails put on lockdown over weekend
Two San Francisco county jails put on lockdown over weekend 03:24

The San Francisco Sheriff on Tuesday blamed the recent spike of violence at the two SF county jails located in San Bruno and the city on overcrowded conditions.

Inmates housed in the jails currently cannot leave their cells except for court and medical appointments after the facilities were placed on lockdown over the weekend.

On Tuesday, San Francisco's sheriff spoke out for the first time about the uptick in violence that has deputies calling for drastic action.

"We don't feel that this is a exigent circumstance that would require that at this time. The recent uptick in the assaults on our staff is something I believe we can handle internally,"

Increased violence in the San Francisco County jails is something both the deputy's union and the sheriff agree on, as both acknowledge the situation has gotten worse. According to data from the union, in 2023 there were 240 reported inmate fights - a 58% increase from the year before.

What Sheriff Miyamoto and union president Ken Lomba don't agree on is the cause.

Sheriff Paul Miyamoto believes inmates are getting more violent due to the jails getting overcrowded now that the pandemic protocols have eased.

"There is insufficient space for us to be able to spread those individuals out and create a more calm environment for people to reside in our housing units," he said.

On Saturday, the union president sent a letter to the sheriff requesting the deployment of the National Guard to temporarily supplement current staffing levels, saying current levels were "insufficient to support the well-being of our personnel."

According to numbers provided by the Sheriff, there are almost 1,200 inmates in San Francisco's jails on any given day. There are supposed to be about 500 deputies assigned to the jails, but due to staffing shortages, there are currently on 364 working.

"Although we are short staffed, we don't believe that is one of the primary factors," said Sheriff Miyamoto.

The sheriff says they will be addressing the violence in a number of ways, including lock downs like those that went into place over the weekend, as well as increased communication with inmates within the pods. There will also be continued discussion among command staff in terms of de-escalation techniques. He also acknowledged the inmate population is becoming increasingly difficult.

There was an incident on Tuesday at the San Bruno jail where two inmates refused to come out of a cell and be handcuffed, but negotiators were able to resolve it peacefully. A spokesperson for the sheriff's office later said one of the inmates was "in crisis."

"Those that remain in custody here in San Francisco are mostly serious, violent offenders, who are charged with serious, violent crimes and who remain in our custody for extended lengths of time," Sheriff Miyamoto said.

Tuesday night, the San Francisco Sheriff's Office confirmed that the lockdown for the jail on 7th Street would be lifted on Wednesday during the day shift. The lockdown at the San Bruno jail will be lifted sometime later this week.

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