Marina Times – The Dangers of Understaffed Prisons

Staff in San Francisco jails have become dangerously dangerous with inmates attacking inmates, nurses, sheriff’s deputies and civilian employees. The San Francisco Sheriff’s Office and City and County of San Francisco have understaffed prisons at a dangerously low level – they haven’t prioritized funding to hire MPs, and they haven’t even prioritized retaining current MPs.

I emailed Sheriff Miyamoto advocating for the hire and alerting management at the sheriff’s office to staffing issues that have existed for more than a decade—two and a half years of which Miyamoto was sheriff. The increase in the workload due to the intentional lack of hiring has turned into “underground work”. The San Francisco District Sheriff’s Association filed a lawsuit before a civil grand jury asking that the sheriff’s office and the city and county of San Francisco be investigated.

Since 2014, the San Francisco Civil Grand Jury has issued three separate reports warning of the effects of sub-minimum staffing levels and to expedite hiring instead of forced overtime. There was even a warning of a possible Title 15 violation in the future if nothing changes. Unfortunately, the Sheriff’s Office has not hired the appropriate number of deputies to create a safe working environment for deputies and inmates. The minimum numbers have worsened – and ultimately – MPs are exhausted.

In previous reports, the Grand Jury found that due to the decline in the total number of deputies employed by the City and County of San Francisco (CCSF), excessive overtime and shortage of corps did not allow the important existing inmate programs to allow the inmate programs that have been recommended to increase on their own. In addition, the recommended training for assistants could not take place or was inadequate to deal with mental health and addictions as well as many other problems experienced by the sheltered population.

Ultimately, this grand jury recommended three times in 2014, 2016, and 2017 to “accelerate hiring to reduce overtime.” The recommendations of the grand jury were never followed, and the situation has become untenable because the number of deputies is now lower than it was when this grand jury made these strong recommendations.


On June 9, 2022, Sheriff Miyamoto sent a memo to all prison staff in the City and County of San Francisco stating his intention to operate below minimum staffing for a period of 8-9 months! The City and County of San Francisco have clearly recognized the futility of giving the appearance of reaching minimum staff and have now admitted they cannot perform their duty to do so.

The City and County of San Francisco competes fiercely with neighboring Alameda and San Mateo counties for prison staff. Alameda was subject to a consent decree to hire more prison staff. It would be a shame if the city and county of San Francisco were under the same government oversight. The city and county of San Francisco can fast-track staff hiring but have not made it a priority, which comes at the expense of overworked and burnt-out prison staff.

The Civil Grand Jury Complaint against the Sheriff’s Office and the City and County of San Francisco was filed on June 20, 2022. This Grand Jury is expected to demand answers from the San Francisco Sheriff’s Office as to why it did not has failed to meet all three separate recommendations since 2014.

Ken Lomba is the president of the San Francisco Deputy Sheriffs Association (

About Patricia Kilgore

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