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Inside SF’s frozen-in-time criminal justice center: Abandoned shoes, broken phone booths and a deserted news bureau

The Standard recently took a stroll through San Francisco’s Thomas J. Cahill Hall of Justice, which is named after the longest-serving police chief in the city’s history.

Since its completion in 1960, the building has been the center of San Francisco’s criminal justice world. Yet once the site of two county jails, the San Francisco Police Department headquarters, the Medical Examiner’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office, the seismically unfit building is slowly emptying out.

Still, vestiges of its builder’s intent—and how times have changed—are all over the seven-story structure. From phone booths without phones, to news agency bureaus to empty cafeterias, these vestiges remain as leftovers from another era, as does the once easy access the public had to many agencies that are now all but off limits.

Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at

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