Juvenile Criminal Justice System

Juvenile Criminal Justice System (Photo credit: Jhandersen)

San Francisco Will Shut Juvenile Detention Hall, But What Will Replace It?

Jenna Lane
June 05, 2019 - 2:28 pm

San Francisco has until the end of 2021 to figure out how to replace its juvenile hall following Tuesday’s vote to shut down the facility.

Mayor London Breed's blue-ribbon panel and the Board of Supervisors' working group are operating on parallel tracks toward the same goal: reforming juvenile justice in the city.

Jessica Nowlan, director of the Young Women's Freedom Center, is part of both efforts. She has done time in San Francisco's juvenile hall, like her mother before her.

“What our hope, even a few weeks from now, is that some of the egos can drop away and we can say, ‘Well, here we are now. Let’s radically imagine what could be different,’” she said. “Let’s make sure families and young people most impacted are the center of those conversations.”

Supervisors voted to close the jail for minors after reports showed that costs to operate it were escalating while serious crimes by young people had dropped.


Rev. Amos Brown of the local NAACP was disgusted by the supervisors' vote, saying that the black community was left out of the process leading to it. He promised to closely follow the working group in the months to come.

"Oh no no, we're going to be here next week. The black community is coming here next week since they wouldn’t hear us in this hearing,” he said. "It's sleazy and it stinks. The citizenry of San Francisco needs to wake up."

But at the public defender's office, another member of the mayor's blue-ribbon panel, Patty Lee, didn't think she'd live to see this day. She's confident San Francisco can figure out a new way forward by the deadline in the end of 2021.

“I definitely think it can be achieved,” she said. “I know that in Ventura County they opened up a new detention facility that is home-like, safe and secure and they did that in a very short period of time.”