San Francisco Votes to Close Its Juvenile Hall by 2021

By a 10 to 1 vote, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors has voted to close its juvenile hall by the end of 2021. The ordinance requires the creation of a task force to develop home-like and rehabilitative centers in San Francisco to house youth offenders, including a secure site for those who pose a public safety threat. The Board must review and approve final plans six months prior to the closure.

The June 4, 2019 decision follows years of advocacy urging that juvenile hall is harmful to youth and interferes with normal adolescent development.  PJDC President, Patti Lee, PJDC Chief Financial Officer, Kasie Lee, and other PJDC members were active in the closure efforts. The Board’s action was also spurred on by recent disclosures that San Francisco’s hall is typically less than a third full, pushing the annual cost to incarcerate a child to $374,000 in 2018.

Patti Lee, who in addition to her PJDC work serves as head of the Juvenile Division of the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, thanked the Board in a published statement:

“The vote to close down juvenile hall was a historic moment in juvenile justice reform.  I am excited and proud to be part of the movement to re-envision this system.  These institutions are not rehabilitative. The racial disparities are stark, and the confines of juvenile halls have a harmful effect on youth’s mental and physical health as well as their educational outcomes, not only in San Francisco but throughout the nation. San Francisco has always prided itself on being at the forefront of reform and innovation.  In the wake of the hall’s closing, we will utilize our experienced brain trust of experts and leaders to ensure a new and better system. It’s time to recognize the developmental immaturity of youth and guide them to become successful and contributing members of our communities. We know that locking up youth is a harmful practice that exacerbates symptoms of anxiety, stress, trauma, and mental health disabilities that our clients often suffer from.  It is well documented that with each day of lock-up, the likelihood of recidivism increases for youth. By closing juvenile hall, we have the opportunity to promote positive youth development while also providing for public safety.”

The Board’s decision is detailed in a June 4, 2019 San Francisco Chronicle article by Jill Tucker and Joaquin Palomino, In historic move, SF supervisors vote to close juvenile hall by end of 2021.