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Letter: Invest in social services, not a new jail
October 01, 2012, 05:00 AM

In her Sept. 26 guest perspective, Supervisor Rose Jacobs Gibson claimed that the proposed new jail supports women by pushing them down far enough so that they’ll start to seek improvement. This is an expensive and cruel fallacy. Women and men who need drug and alcohol counseling can be drawn to it for many reasons. Having someone arrested by police, jailed by the sheriff and sentenced by a judge is an expensive approach that usually fails (Kimberly Zedan’s story notwithstanding: she had been jailed many times before). It also leaves the supposed "beneficiary” with a criminal record and punishes their family (especially if there are children involved) by withdrawing the parent for a prolonged period of time. While it’s a welcome event when people successfully transfer out of jail into employment (as in Zedan’s story), the way to get more people employed is not by sending more people to jail — where job-training failure is generally unavailable or unsuccessful — but by providing more job training in community settings where success is common.

Supervisor Gibson is not that far from her critics. Her essay recognizes that successful job-training programs happen outside of jails, community supervision and/or electronic monitoring can be safely used in place of jailing people, and that county resources for drug counseling and job training are underfunded. With this common ground, why can’t she agree that more investment in social services would allow San Mateo County to avoid the cost and burden of the new jail entirely?

Raphael Sperry

San Francisco

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