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Ross Mirkarimi
A Message from Sheriff 
Ross Mirkarimi
As I write this, an unspeakable tragedy haunts our hearts. In a world torn by violence and sadness we must turn to our families, our friends and our community to find the peaceful bonds that bring comfort. Personal hardships pale as we think of the unimaginable losses endured in Newtown, Connecticut-all I wanted to do was hug my son-and yet on the same day, emergency dispatch reminds us that here in San Francisco, gun violence befalls distressed neighborhoods and the youth who live there.

Tragedy from afar also hits home in ways that many do not realize-we must face the challenge of attending to a growing population struggling with serious mental health issues, in our jails and in our communities. Jail is the intersection of so many wrongs in a person's life that their time with us demands more than just triage.

Upon my return to work, I've been on a listening tour throughout our department, making a point to understand how we can improve our approach in managing and rehabilitating inmates who are within our custody, and those assigned to us through state prisoner realignment.

In my conversations with the women and men of our department, I am continually reminded of their professionalism and dedication to improving public safety both within, and outside of, our jail system. This bridges to my discussions with many inmates, spotlighting the needs and concerns of making our reentry system for soon-to-be ex-offenders more effective.

Looking forward to the coming year, we'll be unveiling a number of initiatives, some small and some large, that will touch the lives of everyone who comes into contact with our department or the criminal justice system. These include: improvements to the antiquated customer service system, making family visiting in the jails more accessible, instituting vocational opportunities for inmates and ex-offenders, innovating new approaches for in and post custody rehabilitation, forging new partnerships aimed at tackling high repeat offender rates in ways that have never been tried, and implementing enhanced training for both our deputies (sworn peace officers) and civilian staff.

While many in San Francisco do not know what the Sheriff's Department does beyond the operation of our jail system and providing security in our courts and public buildings, we will do our best to communicate the import of our reach. This e-newsletter is a first for the department and the beginning of regular reports from us, highlighting the work of our fine staff, the progress and challenges encountered by inmates, and the public safety concerns and triumphs facing us all. Please take a moment to subscribe by clicking the link below.

From all of us at the San Francisco Sheriff's Department, we wish you a wonderful holiday season and a joyous new year. 
-Ross Mirkarimi,
Deputies Extend a Helping Hand  

This Thanksgiving Sheriff's staff and their families and friends teamed up with over 300 volunteer personnel from the Police and Fire Departments to assist Self-Help for the Elderly in their efforts to provide Thanksgiving meals to San Franciscans in need.


This year, over 3,000 low-income seniors and 200 children from Kai Ming Headstart enjoyed a free hot turkey lunch served at the Lady Shaw Senior Center, Geen Mun Senior Center and Woolf House dining rooms in San Francisco.


The Department is honored to contribute to this event each year, helping in the pre-event preparation,  providing vans and trucks to facilitate the transportation of the meals to community centers for seniors to enjoy, and delivering 850 meals to homebound seniors that cannot attend the luncheons at the centers.

Department Participates in

Urban Shield


 Urban Shield is a full-scale public safety exercise, designed to train first responders the skills and abilities needed to perform key tasks required in large-scale disaster. 


During the training exercise, teams participate in up to 30 individual events ranging from Search Warrant Service to Active Shooter/Immediate Action scenarios. Training events begin on Saturday morning and culminate in four 12 hour operational periods that end the following Monday. Teams are transported to the individual scenario sites located in five separate Area Commands throughout the Bay Area. Past venues include City Hall, the San Bruno Jail complex, Moffett Air Field, and the Treasure Island Brig. Throughout the scenarios, teams are confronted with events designed to test their capabilities and decision-making. Teams are debriefed after each scenario with immediate feedback concerning their performance by tactical evaluators.

Urban Shield


Since its inception in 2007, this important event has been attended by teams from the Boston Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and by teams from as far away as France, Israel, Jordan, Brazil, and the Kingdom of Bahrain.

Honoring Incarcerated Veterans

This Veteran's Day, Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi and his command staff joined a network of service providers in the County Jail #5 COVER program to honor veterans in custody. Established in 2010, the Community of Veterans Engaged in Restoration, or "COVER" program, is designed to promote public safety by reducing recidivism and violence among veterans who are involved in the criminal justice system. The program focuses on helping incarcerated veterans learn to support themselves and to live independently in the community following incarceration.


Joining the Sheriff in commemorating the Veteran's Day holiday were graduates of the COVER program, the Director of Swords to Plowshares, Michael Blecker, and eight inmates currently enrolled in COVER. "Orange (all inmates wear orange) is the color of disgrace, but today, for the work we do to better ourselves and each other in the COVER program, I am honored to wear this orange," said one Gulf War Veteran. Current COVER participants recounted their history in the military.

Approximately 70 inmates who served in the U.S. Military are in San Francisco's County Jail system. Locally, hundreds more participate in the post-custody rehabilitative programs that concentrate on housing, employment, substance abuse treatment, and mental health treatment.


"We're challenged by two distinct populations of veterans: the older incarcerated veterans, who require a specialized level of care that they didn't get years ago, and the veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan whose health-and-welfare needs are unique from those of their predecessors," stated Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi. "COVER can claim many success stories of veterans who reenter society never to violate the law again; however, as we see a growing number of veterans finding themselves in the criminal justice system, we will be ill-equipped to address their myriad of needs, in particular, those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)".

Sheriff Mirkarimi, himself a veteran, along with the service providers present at this event, vowed to seek more state and federal funding in pursuit of establishing effective reentry programming for an escalating trend of returning veterans. 

Getting out the Vote From the Inside

I voted Through its Prisoner Legal Services unit, the Department's Inmate Voter Program provided a record 432 prisoners with voter services during November's Consolidated General Election.  The Department has long been a leader in assisting eligible prisoners with the registration and voting process, serving virtually thousands of incarcerated voters over the years.  In fact, the program has been cited as a model for other jurisdictions, such as Washington, D.C., who also want to make sure that an eligible voter's voice is not silenced solely because they have been accused of a crime.  The program requires a great deal of work and dedication and could not be done without the hard work of Prisoner Legal Services staff and law student interns, the partnership of the San Francisco Department of Elections, the support of the Department's sworn and civilian staff and the enthusiastic commitment of Sheriff Mirkarimi to the franchise of every eligible person in our custody.
Constitutional Literacy Project in the Jails

CLP Students
 Frederick Ross and Daniel Lara
This fall saw the beginning of an exciting program designed to promote constitutional literacy among persons in custody. Through a partnership with the Hastings College of the Law Community Law Project (CLP), a series of ten constitutional law classes were presented by law student teachers to prisoners in the Keys to Change Program in our San Bruno facility. The CLP at Hastings is part of the national Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Program through which students usually teach in high schools. Our program marks the first Hastings' CLP class to be taught in a jail setting. Classes focused primarily on the constitutional principles of particular interest to incarcerated persons, namely the criminal law and process and voter and family rights. This pilot project was by all accounts a resounding success. Frank Mabry, a prisoner in the Keys to Change Program, says the program was valuable to him because it taught him "enough about his rights to feel comfortable exercising them." Frederick Ross, another prisoner in the program, said the most valuable part of the experience was learning that the Sheriff's Department "cares enough about the inmates to allow Hastings (students) to teach...him..." Daniel Lara claims the class is "[G]oing to save (him) from a lot of speeding tickets." We hope to continue the Department's partnership with the CLP in bringing these enriching classes to more prisoners in the future. 
Performing Arts in the Jails
Captain Paulson does his part in  2 Angry Men
On November 30 Sheriff Mirkarimi joined Department staff and community members at a special performance by men in the Resolve to Stop the Violence Program in county jail five entitled "We are the Ones". The audience was treated to original poems and stories, songs and movement, as well as excerpts from the classic 12 Angry Men. 

The performers-including our own Captain Paulson-brought the house down. This unique program was developed by the University of San Francisco's Performing Arts and Community Exchange Program in partnership with the Department and Community Works. Each fall for the past four years, students, faculty and men in the RSVP program collaborate on weekly theatre, dance and music experiences in the RSVP program. 
Richard Howlan
Richard Howlan
These workshops support and enhance the work done daily in RSVP by providing the opportunity for the men to step out of their image and to explore who they are through the creative process, theater games, music and movement.
RSVP participant Richard Howlan said the program helped him believe that "[He] can keep changing, that [He] can be a better member of society and that the damage done by violence when [He] was a young man is being healed."
Deputies Get New Tool to
Combat Crime

The Department has trained approximately sixty sworn employees in the use of the highly effective Narcotics Identification Kit (NIK). Quick and accurate 
identification of suspected drugs is crucial to the successful investigation of narcotic cases. In the past this has been a complex and arduous process. To give our deputies the tools they need in the field and to combat the introduction of drugs into the jail system, Sheriff Mirkarimi recently authorized the purchase and use of the NIK product on a Department-wide basis. NIK is a system which enables a Deputy Sheriff to presumptively identify suspected illegal narcotics on scene and with rapid results. If the results of the presumptive drug test indicate an illegal substance, then charges may be booked. The illegal substance may then be sent to the laboratory for confirmation. NIK training began on November 8, 2012, and kits will deploy in early December. 
2012 San Francisco Sheriff's Department 
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