Sheriff Mirkarimi Gives Keynote Speech At San Quentin State Prison Graduation Ceremony

San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, a champion of rehabilitation through education, was the keynote speaker at Robert E. Burton Adult School’s inmate graduation ceremony at San Quentin State Prison today.

Mirkarimi has been an ardent supporter of providing inmates with access to education, maintaining that their education helps create safer communities, reduces tax dollars spent on incarceration, and allows inmates to obtain the skills they need to rejoin communities and their families upon release.

“It’s time for prisons and county jails to take a common sense progressive turn and get past this nation’s obsession with a failed and bloated criminal justice system built on the operating principle of retribution without recognizing the power of redemption,” Mirkarimi said in a statement released prior to his commencement speech at San Quentin State Prison. “If we all want to improve public safety then we must improve the staggeringly abysmal recidivism rates that propel the machinery of mass incarceration,”

The prison and the state are already taking significant steps to remove barriers to education for inmates.

San Quentin State Prison has a unique program that gives inmates the opportunity to pursue GEDs as well as for-credit college courses toward advanced degrees.

Graduates at San Quentin State Prison get to take part in a ceremony in the prison’s Protestant Chapel, complete with traditional cap and gowns.

Graduates are either obtaining GEDs, vocational certificates, or associate degrees through contracted junior colleges.

California residents can expect such academic programs to expand, as the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office have signed an agreement to expand and increase inmate access to community college courses that will lead to degrees, certificates or transferable credits to a four-year university.

The contract was made possible by the September 2014 passage of Senate Bill 1391, authored by State Senator Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, that bolstered inmate education programs by allowing community colleges to collect funds for inmate programs within prisons.

Under the bill, up to $2 million is appropriated from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for this program to the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office.

The Chancellor’s Office must create and support at least four pilot sites to allow inmate students to earn college credits and give them access to counseling, placement, and disability support services.

The bill requires the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the Chancellor’s Office to establish the Innovative Career Technical Education Grant Program to provide planning grants to up to 20 community colleges to provide career and technical education courses to inmates.

Part of the impetus behind the bill is a 2013 RAND Corporation report, “Evaluating the Effectiveness of Correctional Education,” that found that every $1 invested in inmate education results in $5 saved in future prison costs.

The report states the findings “provide suggestive evidence that correctional education may be most effective in preventing recidivism when the program connects inmates with the community outside the correctional facility.”

Prior to the bill’s passage, some higher education and community organizations provided career skills development opportunities to inmates, but little collaboration resulted in industry or state certifications known to be key for subsequent employment.

The law specifically prohibited community colleges from collecting funds generated by attendance hours for programs that are not open to the public. Community colleges were only able to offer limited services, such as correspondence courses and television/video courses, but not in-person, hands on, or experiential courses.

According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s Office of Division of Rehabilitative Programs, currently 27 different college institutions are teaching close to 7,000 inmates.

State Bill 1391 is expected to have a significant impact on incarcerated students, allowing colleges to offer classes inside prisons and allowing the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s Office of Correctional Education to expand its college programs.

In San Francisco, Mirkarimi presides over Five Keys Charter High School, the nation’s first public charter school to operate inside a county jail.

Five Keys Charter High School was established by the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department in 2003 and utilizes public funding while operating independently of the established public school system.

Today, under Mirkarimi’s watch, Five Keys Charter Schools and Programs operates in both jail-embedded classrooms as well as 24 community learning centers in San Francisco and Oakland and 13 in Los Angeles, according to the sheriff’s department.

The program serves over 9,000 students annually, according to the sheriff’s department.

San Francisco Sheriff’s Department spokesman Kenya Briggs said that inmates in San Francisco’s County Jails are, as of this month, also receiving the opportunity to obtain college credit that can be transferred to another college upon release from jail.

Yerba Buena Island Residents Fight Against Evictions Prompted By Development

Residents of Yerba Buena Island faced with eviction by the city of San Francisco to make room for new development are refusing to leave without a fight.

The 40 households on Yerba Buena Island, comprising about 100 people, have been given an option: either take roughly $5,000 and move off the island or move into an apartment on Treasure Island, accessible from Yerba Buena Island via a small road.

Many of the residents who showed up at San Francisco City Hall Thursday to protest the eviction said they don’t like either option and want Mayor Ed Lee to allow them to stay in their homes.

The city has given them until September to decide, but residents said they want relocation assistance until development is complete and the right to return to the island.

But with 95 percent of the housing on the island expected to be market rate, there won’t be enough affordable housing for all the original residents.

Betty Mackey, who has lived on Yerba Buena Island for 11 years and considers the island home, said the community is so close that many have keys to each other’s homes.

She said the community that has been built on the island since the U.S. Navy handed it over to San Francisco in 2007 will be demolished to make way for “exclusive luxury homes for the ultra-rich.”

The city has always planned to develop both Yerba Buena Island and Treasure Island and in 2011 the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved the 20-year development of the site.

The discovery of contaminated soil and a subsequent environmental analysis have postponed development.

But the incredible housing demand in the Bay Area and islands’ sweeping views of both San Francisco and the East Bay have developers eager to move forward on the project.

The development is a joint venture between Lennar Corporation, Kenwood Investments, Wilson Meany and Stockbridge Investments and is expected to cost roughly $1.5 billion.

According to Wilson Meany’s website, the former naval site will be transformed into two neighborhoods with up to 8,000 residences, with 25 percent designated for affordable housing.

Most of the project’s affordable units will be on Treasure Island and few will be located on Yerba Buena Island.

The Treasure Island Development Authority, the non-profit, public benefit agency dedicated to the economic development of the former naval station, approved the first of four phases of development on Treasure Island and Yerba Buena Island in May and accepted transfer from the U.S. Navy of 290 acres of property. Additional, smaller land transfers will be made over the next seven years.

Weather Forecast For The San Francisco Bay Area

Today will be cloudy with patchy fog in the morning. Highs will be in the mid 60s and west winds will reach 10 to 20 miles per hour.

Tonight will be mostly cloudy with patchy fog after midnight. Lows will be in the upper 50s and west winds will reach 10 to 20 miles per hour.

Saturday will be mostly cloudy with patchy fog in the morning. Highs will be in the 60s. West winds will reach 10 to 20 miles per hour.

(News Roundup Via Bay City News)