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The San Francisco sheriff says there has been a spike in violent incidents in county jails due to overcrowding

The San Francisco sheriff on Tuesday blamed the recent spike in violence at the two SF County jails in San Bruno and the city on overcrowded conditions.

Inmates currently in prisons will not be able to leave their cells except for court hearings and medical appointments after the facilities went into lockdown this weekend.

On Tuesday, the San Francisco sheriff spoke out for the first time about the increase in violence, prompting deputies to call for drastic action.

“We do not feel that this is an exigent circumstance that would require that at this time. The recent increase in attacks on our staff is something I believe we can handle internally.”

The increased violence in San Francisco County jails is something both the deputy sheriff’s union and the sheriff agree on, as both acknowledge the situation has gotten worse. According to union data, there were 240 reports of fights between prisoners in 2023 – a 58% increase from the previous year.

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What Sheriff Miyamoto and union president Ken Lomba disagree on is the cause.

Sheriff Paul Miyamoto believes inmates are becoming more violent as jails become overcrowded as pandemic protocols have been relaxed.

“There is not enough space for us to disperse these individuals and create a calmer environment for people to stay in our housing units,” he said.

Saturday the union president sent a letter to the sheriff requesting the deployment of the National Guard to temporarily supplement current staffing levelssaying current levels are “insufficient to support the well-being of our workforce.”

There are nearly 1,200 inmates in San Francisco jails every day, according to sheriff’s figures. About 500 deputies would be assigned to the jails, but due to staffing shortages, 364 are currently working.

“Although we are short-staffed, we do not believe this is one of the major factors,” said Sheriff Miyamoto.

The sheriff says they will address the violence in a number of ways, including lockdowns like the ones that went into effect this weekend and better communication with inmates in the pods. Also, there will be ongoing discussion among command staff regarding de-escalation techniques. He also acknowledged that the prisoner population is becoming increasingly difficult.

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On Tuesday there was an incident at the San Bruno prison where two prisoners refused to get out of a cell and be handcuffed, but negotiators managed to resolve it peacefully. A spokesman for the sheriff’s office later said one of the inmates was “in crisis.”

“Those who remain in custody here in San Francisco are mostly serious, violent offenders who are charged with serious, violent crimes and who remain in our custody for extended periods of time,” said Sheriff Miyamoto.

On Tuesday evening, the San Francisco Sheriff’s Office confirmed that the lockdown at the 7th Street jail would be lifted during the day shift on Wednesday. The lockdown at San Bruno Jail will be lifted sometime later this week.

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