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Supervisors reject funding for Mayor Newsom's Community Justice Center

The $500,000 discussed May 14 originally was set aside for two holding cells — one for men and one for women — subleasing the court space, tenant improvements to the space, and social services.

Newman said that after tenant improvements, social services salaries, new cells, and subleases, new expenses would cost the city $2.4 million, even with a $1 million federal earmark supplied by Speaker Nancy Pelosi. CJC supporters said savings produced by the court would justify these costs.

San Francisco Superior Court Commissioner Ron Albers said San Francisco has used problem-solving and collaborative courts for more than a decade, citing the award-winning behavioral health court for mentally ill offenders as one example of how these courts can stop the courts' current revolving-door system.

"This is a difficult budget time, but we can target high-end users of expensive programs and save money," he said.

Albers added that under the current system, people charged with misdemeanors must wait two days for an arraignment, while those charged with felonies wait three days. At $152 per day per bed, taxpayers spend thousands of dollars a year on people whose charges are ultimately dropped.

A representative of the mayor's budget office told the hearing that the CJC could also save money by eliminating the need to build more jail pods, thus lowering the sheriff's budget. But Harvey Rose of the Budget Analysts' office said the CJC has failed to document any actual savings.

"Savings means that a budget is going to be cut, and we have seen no cuts in any budget," Rose said.

Some Tenderloin residents said that because crime is so rampant in their neighborhood, it would unacceptable for the city not to take action in some way, and they urged approval of the CJC. Yet others object to the double standard of creating what they dub the "poverty court." *

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