On Saturday, March 28, members of DSA SF’s Justice Committee dropped off 900 bottles of hand sanitizer for people being held in San Francisco’s jails in an effort to address the city’s failure to release more people amid the COVID-19 crisis.

The Justice Committee released the following statement:

San Francisco jails are on the brink of a crisis — a public health emergency that is threatening to undermine our efforts to “flatten the curve” of COVID-19 and exposing the problems inherent to our criminal system. Five employees within the Sheriff’s office have tested positive for COVID-19. Nearly 830 people are incarcerated in San Francisco jails, all of whom are denied the opportunity to adhere to meaningful social distancing requirements that our city leaders and healthcare professionals demand. They are unable to isolate, unable to quarantine, and are exposed to jail employees who are expected to come to work as long as they’re asymptomatic, regardless of whether they’ve been knowingly exposed to someone infected with COVID-19. 

To slow the spread of COVID-19, the Democratic Socialists of America SF, in collaboration with The Science Policy Group at UCSF (SPG), distributed 900 individual bottles of hand sanitizer to incarcerated people in San Francisco jails this week.

The first batch of sanitizer was provided by UC Berkeley scientists Abrar Abidi and Yvonne Hao. The subsequent batches have been produced by The Science Policy Group at UCSF. This mutual aid effort aims to give people on the inside a tool to help slow the spread of the virus in our community and to survive in inhumane conditions. 

We have distributed hand sanitizer because the city has failed to protect our vulnerable populations and to protect us all. 

Although hand sanitizer will serve to reduce the public health risk, it does not address the root problem: incarceration and dehumanization. The City’s Director of Jail Health Services, Dr. Pratt, has called for “a rapid reduction” in the jail population. That is our minimum demand. We demand that the City recognizes the humanity of our incarcerated community members. We demand justice.

We demand decarceration. 

Today, we join the voices that call on Mayor London Breed, Sheriff Paul Miyamoto, Police Chief Scott, and District Attorney Chesa Boudin to follow the guidance of healthcare professionals and immediately release, at minimum, the following people:

– All people age 50 years and older.
– All people detained on bail.
– All children incarcerated in Juvenile Hall.
– All people with 3 months or fewer remaining in their sentence.
– All people with medical conditions that are risk factors for severe illness, including, but not limited to: Respiratory conditions, obesity, HIV-positive, & mental illness.

To be clear, “All people” described above includes individuals incarcerated for misdemeanors and all felonies, especially those that did not result in serious physical harm to a person and especially property crime.

We demand that District Attorney Chesa Boudin:
– Codify this policy and issue it as a directive to his staff no later than April 7th, 2020.  

We demand that Sheriff Paul Miyamoto:
– Release all people fitting the above criteria in accordance with his power under California Government Code 8658.

We demand that Police Chief Scott instruct his officers to:
– Cite and release all justice-involved individuals that do not pose a certain danger to cause immediate and severe bodily harm to another individual.

Ultimately, County Jail 4 at 850 Bryant must be closed. We, as part of the No New SF Jail Coalition, have been demanding this for months. Supervisors, the Sheriff, and the Mayor have all agreed CJ4 is decrepit, seismically unsafe, and a health hazard– even before the pandemic.

Funding for incarceration must be redirected to rehabilitation and restorative justice programs that succeed in bringing our neighbors back into our communities.

COVID-19 only highlights an ongoing public health & humanitarian crisis that existed before this pandemic, and will exist after it has passed.

We will continue to do true public safety work moving forward, including continuing to provide hand sanitizer manufactured by SPG at UCSF to people locked in cages in the Bay Area. Solidarity, decarceration, rehabilitation, transformative justice and mutual aid is the way forward, toward true public safety for all.

Democratic Socialists of America is an abolitionist organization that believes true public safety comes from building a just and equitable world where everyone is able to pursue comfortable and meaningful lives, where housing and healthcare are human rights guaranteed to all. Public safety comes from healthy, fulfilled communities that address harms with compassion and  accountability, not by criminalizing and caging the poor, desperate, and sick.

Press contact: Yuhe Faye Wang, Co-chair of DSA Justice Committee, justice@dsasf.org