June 4, 2014, Washington, D.C. – Under Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, San Francisco jails are almost half empty. According to the city sheriff’s department, the average daily prisoner population has decreased since 2009, when that figure was 1,937. This year, the average daily prisoner population is only 1,395.
“I’m the first sheriff to preside over this department in San Francisco’s history that is experiencing one of the lowest jail populations ever, which makes our jails one of the most under-crowded in the United States,” Mirkarimi told NBC.
The decrease in the prisoner populations is in large part due to the increased focus on diversion programs and supervised release in the Bay Area. 1,460 people are currently serving a sentence outside jail walls because of these programs.
Mirkarimi told NBC that the focus on diversion has paid dividends. “We’re seeing much greater results in diverting people through drug court and helping them with, if substance abuse disorder is the issue, they’re getting that treatment,” he said. “We don’t have to incarcerate.” Mirkarimi also pointed to this focus in explaining why San Francisco has become a pioneer in the criminal justice system.
Mirkarimi is a graduate of the San Francisco Police Academy, where he was the president of his class. He then served in the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office investigating white collar crime. He represented District 5 on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors from 2005 to 2011. In November 2011, he was elected sheriff of San Francisco, becoming the first Iranian American elected to the office of sheriff in the country.