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September 11, 2012
San Mateo County Board of Supervisors
Hall of Justice and Records
400 County Center
Redwood City, CA 94603
To the Board of Supervisors,
We, the undersigned, urge the Board not to build the Maple Street Correctional Center in San Mateo County. Building a new facility is unnecessary, counterproductive and a waste of human lives and scarce County resources.
We respectfully but forcefully request that the Board of Supervisors:
1) Cancel construction on any new jail projects
2) Immediately reduce the County’s jail population
3) Use all AB109 funds to support community-based programs, alternatives to incarceration and services
4) Do not use sales tax revenues to finance the jail expansion
San Mateo County does not need more jail cells. The County Local Implementation Plan lists several ways to reduce the County’s current jail population, all of them proven policy options that are safely and successfully in place in other counties. Reducing the number of people held pre-trial, and especially those held because they can’t make bail, would by itself reduce the County’s jail population very significantly. Seventy-two percent of people in San Mateo’s jails are awaiting trial and the great majority of those simply cannot afford bail. Unnecessarily high bail is just one of many practices that targets poor people and people of color to fill San Mateo’s jail cells.
We share the widespread disgust at conditions in the Women’s Correctional Center, but do not support building a new jail for women. As the ACLU has pointed out, San Mateo could safely close the Women’s Correctional Center without building a new jail by moderately reducing the jail population. Women in San Mateo County don’t need better jail cells. They need programs in the community that will help them make lives for themselves outside jail. What could $44.2 million do this year for struggling communities if you had a different plan? What could the $50 million a year–nearly $137,000 a day– it will cost to operate the jail and pay debt service do? How much affordable housing, healthcare, treatment, education, and job training could that pay for?
San Mateo County currently locks up 145 women. That means that the $44.2 million that you are proposing to spend solely on jail construction this year could mean spending over $300,000 per women prisoner, or over $43,000 for each of San Mateo County’s 1,009 prisoners. Combined with the money it takes to actually imprison us, those resources could pay each prisoner to both have a living wage job that serves a community need and receive additional support with housing, healthcare, or treatment.
Why when you could use AB109 funds to support programs that help keep people out of jail would you choose to use our tax dollars instead to build more cells?
In a January 2012 op-ed in The Daily Journal, Tom Huening, San Mateo County Controller, wrote: “My job as controller is about county finance and, based upon our living off reserves for the last four years, I say we cannot afford a new jail. The $150 million to $200 million in potential lease finance (not voter approved bonds) is troubling, but the ongoing additional $30 million per year for operations is the budget buster.”
For years, you have approved devastating cuts to life-affirming programs. We live in one of the richest counties in the state, and yet San Mateo County’s unemployment has doubled in the last two years, foreclosures have risen by 38%, and the number of people seeking emergency hospital care, job training, food stamps and transportation and housing assistance are rising dramatically just when cuts to these programs are coming down. More than a third of San Mateo County’s households don’t make enough money to sustain themselves. You have cut millions of dollars from programs and services like children’s healthcare, wellness and behavioral health programs; substance abuse treatment; San Mateo Community colleges; parks; worker benefits; and domestic violence programs. These cuts have the largest impact on people who are marginalized by our economy: women, poor and working class people, people of color, people with disabilities and queer and gender-nonconforming people. The same communities fill our jail cells. In San Mateo County, Black people are imprisoned at a rate more than 16 times that of white people. What does it say about our county if we’re willing to cut tens of millions from these programs while spending even more to build a new jail?
You have declared a shared vision of San Mateo County as “a safe, healthy, livable, prosperous, collaborative and environmentally conscious community.” Cutting vital programs to build a new jail clearly violates that vision.
The County is faced with a stark and simple choice: it can invest AB109 funds in community-based programs that will improve the lives of people in San Mateo County – improving their educations, their job prospects, and their health, or it can pour more money into expanding a jail system that devastates our budget and further destabilizes our most vulnerable communities.
San Mateo County Based Organizations and Individuals
David Airey, resident of Redwood City
Anjalee Behti, resident of South San Francisco
Andrea Carrillo, resident of South San Francisco
Carolina Cayetano, resident of South San Francisco
Joanan Daly, resident of Redwood City
Casey Duffy, resident of Brisbane
Monica Fernandez, resident of South San Francisco
Austin Garcia, resident of San Mateo
Jade Garcia, resident of San Mateo
Martin Garcia, resident of San Mateo
Alexandra Gerodias, resident of South San Francisco
Bob Haslam, resident of San Mateo
Molly Haslam, resident of San Mateo
Manuel La Fontaine, resident of Daly City
Gloria Linda Maldonado, resident of Redwood City
Jennifer Martinez, Executive Director of Peninsula Interfaith Action
Brittney McCahill, resident of South San Francisco
Frank Montoro, resident of San Mateo
Pastor Jethroe Moore II, President of San Jose/Silicon Valley NAACP
Dorsey Nunn, resident of Menlo Park
Bernadette Rabuy, resident of South San Francisco
Lourdes Rabuy, resident of South San Francisco
Octavio Rabuy, resident of South San Francisco
Carlos Tabora, resident of South San Francisco
Claudia Tabora, resident of South San Francisco
Irene Tabora, resident of South San Francisco
Veronica Tabora, resident of South San Francisco
Joanne Thompson, resident of San Carlos
John R. Thompson, resident of San Carlos from 1984-2003
Dr. G William Walster, Ph. D., resident of Cupertino
Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice
Dignity In Schools: Golden Gate School of Law Chapter
Juvenile Offenders Committee (JOC) – California Central Women’s Facility
National Lawyers Guild – Committee on Mass Incarceration
Progressive Democrats of Los Angeles
Quaker Friends – Santa Cruz