From the Office of Sheriff Michael Hennessey
May 5, 2008
San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey today announced that a recent demographic survey of the San Francisco County Jail population shows that more than 60% of the prisoners are African American. The percentage is even higher for African American women, 67%.
In 1996, a study showed that 50% of the jail population was African American. Only three years ago, in 2005, a similar study showed the African American jail population at 53%.
By contrast, San Francisco’s African American population has been shrinking over the past two decades.
According to the Mayor’s Office of Community Development’s 2005-2010 Consolidated Plan, in 1990, San Francisco’s African American population was 76,343. In the census of 2000, that number had dropped 23% to 58,791, or 8% of the overall population. According to information from the US Census Bureau, by 2006, that number had dropped another 15% to 50,012, or 6.7% of San Francisco’s population.
The MOCD study also shows that 63% of all San Franciscans were in the age range of the jail population, ages 19 to 54. If this general age demographic holds true in the African American community, then there are about 31,500 San Francisco African Americans between the ages of 19 and 54. Assuming that 50% of these adults are male, then there are approximately 15,750 African American males between the ages of 19 and 54, based on the 2000 census figures.
On April 6, 2008, the San Francisco County Jail held 1,050 African American male prisoners. This would suggest that one in every 15 African American adult males in San Francisco is in jail on any given day.
“It is puzzling that at a time when San Francisco lost 35% of its African American population, the African American jail population could increase by 10 percentage points,” said Sheriff Hennessey. “I am concerned that the criminal justice system and the war on drugs, specifically, are not only disproportionately adversely affecting San Francisco’s African American community, but that San Francisco is also losing the African American culture and its contributions to the City. Coupled with another alarming statistic, that 42% of the jail population is in custody on drug offenses, it seems clear that civic leaders, whether in government or private industry, should give greater support to substance abuse services and to employment opportunities for this impacted segment of our community.”