The San Francisco County Jail (SFCJ)


exterior of cement building with police car parked outside
850 Bryant - SF Jail - Hall of Justice

The San Francisco County Jail ("SFCJ")...operated by the San Francisco Sheriff's comprised of six different housing and administrative units plus a ward in the San Francisco General Hospital.

The Jails house approximately 2,200 inmates each day.  About 55,000 arrestees are booked into this system annually.

When an individual is arrested in San Francisco, he/she is taken to the intake and release facility, County Jail #1, where he/she is booked and evaluated by the Department of Public Health for any immediate health concerns.  Individuals requiring serious medical attention are transferred to Ward 7 at the San Francisco General Hospital.  Those who require only minimal or moderate medical attention may be treated onsite.

Arrestees who post bail (discussed below under Section 1. Procedures on How to Post Bail for an Inmate at the San Francisco County Jail) will be released as soon as the funds clear.  Arrestees who must remain in jail may be held up to 24 hours before being transferred to one of the other County Jail units.

Female inmates are housed in County Jail #2.  Male inmates are housed in County Jail numbers 2-5 (∗unit 6 is currently closed until further notice).  Inmates who require on-going physical or psychiatric attention will be housed in Ward 7 at San Francisco General Hospital.

The San Francisco County Jail

  1. temporarily houses arrestees until they
    • post bail,
    • are released on their own recognizance (known as an O.R. release),
    • appear for their arraignment, or
    • await their trial, and
  2. houses convicted defendants who have been sentenced to incarceration in a county jail.

The following are the addresses and telephone numbers for the facilities that comprise the San Francisco County Jail:

County Jail numbers 1 and 2:
427 7th Street
San Francisco, CA
(415) 575-4410

County Jail numbers 3 and 4:
850 Bryant Street
San Francisco, CA
(415) 553-1443

County Jail numbers 5 and 6:
1 Moreland Drive
P.O. Box 67
San Bruno, CA 94066
(650) 266-7500

Ward 7 San Francisco General Hospital:
1001 Potrero Avenue
San Francisco, CA
(415) 206-8483

In this article, our San Francisco criminal defense attorneys1 will explain the following:

If, after reading this article, you would like more information, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.

1. Procedures on How to Post Bail for an Inmate at the San Francisco County Jail

"Bail" refers to the amount of money that a defendant must post in order to be released from jail.  It is intended to assure the court that the defendant will appear in court as expected.  If the defendant attends all court appearances, the bail will be returned at the end of the case.  If the defendant does not attend all of his/her court appearances, he/she forfeits that money to the court.

exterior of a bail bond shop
Posting a bail bond is the most common way to bail someone out of jail

Bail for inmates at the San Francisco County Jail is set according to the San Francisco County bail schedule based on the crime(s) for which they were arrested.

Once an inmate has been booked into the San Francisco County Jail, anyone can pay (or "post") bail on his/her behalf.  The Jail accepts several types of bail payments, many of which are discussed in detail in our article on How to Post Bail in California).  These include cash bail, cashier's checks, money orders, bail bonds and credit cards.

1.1. Cash bail

If you post cash bail, you must pay the entire bail amount.  Once you post cash bail, the inmate is released pending his/her arraignment.  If the inmate attends his/her court appearances, the bail will be returned following the conclusion of the criminal case (minus a small administrative fee).  If the inmate does not attend those appearances, he/she forfeits your money to the court.

You may post cash bail (as well as cashier's checks and money orders, described below) in Room 101 on the first floor of the Hall of Justice (County Jail numbers 3 and 4) located at 850 Bryant Street from 8:00am until 4:30pm Monday through Friday.

To post bail afterhours or on weekends or holidays, you would make the payment at the property window in County Jail #1 located at 425 7th Street.

Once you post bail, you must deliver the bail receipt to the appropriate facility in order to have the inmate released.  If the inmate is being held in County Jail #1, take the receipt to that facility.  For inmates housed in any of the other facilities, deliver the receipt to the 6th floor of the Hall of Justice, County Jail #3, located at 850 Bryant Street.

1.2. Cashier's check

Similar to cash bail, if you opt to use a cashier's check, you must post the entire bail amount.  The San Francisco County Jail only accepts bank-drawn cashier's checks.  Checks should be payable to the San Francisco Superior Court.  They should also include the inmate's full name and booking number.

Because the funds must be verified before the Jail will release an inmate, the inmate's release may take a while, depending on the time of day and whether the arrest takes place on a weekend.

1.3. Bail bonds

Money orders must also be payable to the San Francisco Superior Court.  They, too, must be for the full bail amount.  Money orders must be

1.4. Bail bonds

Since most people don't have the funds to post cash bail or a cashier's check, posting a bail bond is the most common way to bail someone out of jail.  This is because...assuming the defendant makes all of his/her court are only required to pay a maximum 10% of the total bail amount.

You obtain a bail bond from a bail bondsman (aka a bail agent).  If the defendant makes all of his/her court appearances, you pay nothing on top of the 10%, but you do not get that 10% is the bondsman's nonrefundable fee.  If the inmate doesn't make those appearances, you will be liable for repaying the entire bail amount to the agent.

When you use a bail bond, the application process only takes about half an hour.  The inmate is usually released shortly after that.

You can search for bail bondsmen via the Internet or in the phone book.  Make sure you verify the bondsman's license and retain copies of any documents for your records.

1.5. Credit cards

The San Francisco County Jail subscribes to "Gov Pay" which allows people to post bail via the web for inmates who have been arrested on misdemeanor charges.  If you wish to post bail in this fashion, you may use a credit card (or debit card) and must know the inmate's

  • first and last name,
  • SF jail number (not his/her official booking number, but a separate number that is assigned at the time of booking), and
  • court case number.

∗NOTE:  Once you post bail, you should immediately consult with a skilled San Francisco criminal defense lawyer who can schedule a bail hearing to argue that the bail should be reduced or eliminated.  One of our experienced local attorneys can also help devise the most effective legal defense to help your loved one fight his/her case.

2. How to Get Information on Inmates Housed at the San Francisco County Jail

You can obtain information on inmates at the SFCJ 24 hours a day / 7 days a week by calling the Jail's general information line at (415) 553-1430.  Be prepared to provide the inmate's full name and booking number.

Unfortunately, neither the Sheriff's Department nor the court currently provide any online access to inmate or case information.

3. How to Contact an Inmate at the SFCJ

When an inmate is booked into the San Francisco County Jail, he/she may make free local outgoing phone calls to

  • arrange for bail,
  • inform family members as to their whereabouts, and/or
  • contact an attorney.

Long distance calls must be collect or placed with a calling card.  Inmates are not allowed to receive incoming calls.

If you have a loved one in the San Francisco County Jail, contact your local telephone carrier to make sure that collect and calling card calls are not blocked on your telephone plan.

The good news is that contact with inmates at the Jail isn't limited to phone calls.  You can also visit an inmate in person or correspond via mail.  These options are discussed in the next two sections.

4. Visiting Hours and Policies

visiting hours written on a chalk board
Visiting hours take place on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays

Most inmates at the San Francisco County Jail are allowed to have visitors, provided the visitors comply with the facility's rules and regulations.

4.1. Visiting hours

Visiting hours take place on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.  The hours vary, depending on the unit in which the inmate is housed.  Each complex's visiting hours are posted on the facility's visiting schedule webpage.  Visits are limited to 20-30 minutes with a maximum of 3 visitors.

Some visits are offered on a first-come, first-served basis while others require a reservation.

Inmates housed in County Jail #1 are only allowed to receive visits from attorneys, since these inmates are transferred to other units within 24 hours of booking.  People who wish to visit inmates in County Jail #2 should go directly to the facility the day of the visit.  Reservations are not required.

If you wish to visit an inmate in County Jail numbers 3, 4 or 5, you must call the following reservation lines from 1:00pm to 6:00pm on the day before you wish to visit:

  • County Jail #3 - (415) 553-1464
  • County Jail #4 - (415) 553-9896
  • County Jail #5 - (650) 266-1730.

Attorneys are not bound by these hours and have access to inmates 24 hours a day / 7 days a week.

And parent/child visits must be arranged separately and ahead of time.  To schedule these visits, call the following numbers:

  • County Jail #2 - call "One Family" at (415) 475-4468,
  • County Jail #4 - call the Northern California Service League at (415) 552-9250, and
  • County Jail #5 - call "Prison Match" at (650) 266-7524.

4.2. Visitor rules and restrictions

Even with a reservation, you must arrive at the Jail's waiting area 30 minutes before your scheduled visit to confirm the reservation.  All visitors must provide a government issued photo I.D. card, such as

  • a California driver's license,
  • a California identification card,
  • a U.S. Passport,
  • an alien registration card, or
  • a U.S. military card.

All visitors are subject to search and must comply with any direction provided by the Jail staff.  In addition, visitors may not

  • possess (or be under the influence of) drugs or alcohol,
  • possess weapons, or
  • wear or display any type of gang or gang-related attire/accessories.

5. Rules and Regulations Regarding Mail Correspondence with Inmates at the San Francisco County Jail

Inmates at SFCJ are allowed to send and receive an unlimited amount of mail.  Note that all incoming and outgoing mail will be searched for contraband.  Letters and photos are acceptable - "care packages" other than books are not.

And because mail is inspected prior to delivery, be sure to use common sense if you want the inmate to receive your mail.  Mail or photos that, for example,

  • incite violence,
  • depict nudity, or
  • are gang-related

will be rejected.

You may send an inmate books as long as

  1. you have the publisher send them directly, and
  2. the publisher does so exclusively through the U.S. Postal Service.

Books that do not comply with these rules will be rejected.

And if you wish to send an inmate money, you may do so, provided that you comply with the procedures set forth below under Section 6. How to Put Money "On the Books" for an Inmate.

6. How to Put Money "On the Books" for an Inmate

person holding a few dollar bills
An inmate's money that he/she has at the time of arrest is placed into this account.

When you put money "on the books" for an inmate at the San Francisco County Jail, it means that you create or contribute to an "in-house" bank account that allows the inmate to make purchases at the Jail's commissary.  Inmates may purchase articles such as stationary, food, personal hygiene items and pre-paid calling cards from the commissary once a week.

An inmate's money that he/she has at the time of arrest is placed into this account.  If you would like to contribute to this account...or create one for an inmate who didn't have money in his/her possession at the time of arrest or who has used all of his/her have several options.

You may make an in-person deposit 7 days a week at the property window in County Jail #1 located at 425 7th Street between 7:30am and noon, 12:30pm and 2:00pm or 3:15pm and 5:30pm.

There is also a "TouchPay" kiosk located in this lobby which is accessible 24 hours a day / 7 days a week.  The kiosk allows you to make deposits using cash or a credit or debit card.  There may be a fee for using TouchPay's services.

If you wish to mail money to an inmate, you may send a maximum $100 U.S. Postal Service money order or a U.S. bank-drawn money order. These are the only methods of payment that the SFCJ will accept via mail.

You may also choose to send money via TouchPayDirect (for a fee) by calling (866) 232-1899 or by visiting the TouchPay website.  In order to use this service, you will need

  1. the inmate's SF number, and
  2. the SFCJ TouchPay code, which is 294103.

Any unused money that is in an inmate's account at the time of release will be returned to the inmate.

7. Procedures for "Return of Property" at the San Francisco County Jail

When an inmate is booked into the SFCJ, his/her belongings are collected and stored.  This property is usually returned to the inmate upon his/her release.  Alternatively, an inmate can designate another person to claim that property by filling out a property release form.

If an inmate fills out this form designating you as the person to whom property should be released, you may collect the property during a regular visit.  This transaction does not need to be arranged ahead of time.

8. Inmate Services at the SFCJ

The San Francisco County Jail offers a number of services to its inmates.  Some of these include:

  • a commissary where inmates can purchase a variety of items such as food, writing materials, hygiene products, pre-paid calling cards, etc.,
  • indoor and outdoor recreation,
  • a library,
  • educational courses and high school equivalency (G.E.D.) certificates,
  • religious counseling and services conducted by chaplains from a variety of religious denominations,
  • counseling classes in a variety of areas such as substance abuse and parenting,
  • psychiatric services, and
  • 24-hour-a-day medical attention.

Call us for help...

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Call us for help...

If you or loved one is charged with a crime and you are looking to hire an attorney for representation, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We can provide a free consultation in office or by phone. We have local offices in Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and throughout California.

1Our San Francisco criminal defense attorneys have a local law office located at 425 Market Street, Suite 2200, San Francisco, CA 94105.  Our telephone number is (415) 333-0300.  In addition, our Bay area criminal defense attorneys have local law offices in San Jose and Oakland.

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The attorneys at Shouse Law Group bring more than 100 years collective experience fighting for individuals. We're ready to fight for you. Call us 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at 855-LAW-FIRM for a free case evaluation.

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