The Truth Takes a Backseat When Politics Hits Our Courts

Anne Irwin

Anne Irwin

1 day ago · Medium.com

Right now, there are people in San Francisco taking every opportunity to lie to the public about skyrocketing crime when, in fact, it is falling. (Year to date, crime is 17% lower in 2021 compared to 2019.) They are fearmongering to whomever will listen, trying to make San Franciscans think that there is danger lurking on every corner, and that the city is about to burst into bedlam. They are on television on the regular, touting this singular brand of hysteria.

Not only are these individuals stoking unfounded fear about public safety, they are also doing nothing to solve some of the persistent problems that exist in San Francisco – like homelessness or substance use disorders. Rather than advocating for, or investing in, badly needed public health initiatives, they are weaponizing fear to maintain their own power — even to the point of throwing away millions of tax dollars in an attempt to recall District Attorney Chesa Boudin. All evidence suggests that Boudin’s approach to justice, which involves holding police accountable and reducing the footprint of the justice system for less serious offenses, promotes rather than threatens public safety. But facts don’t permeate their rhetoric.

These recallers do not care about safety, truth, or solutions. They want a return to the status quo where they held power, plain and simple. They blame innovation and reform for society’s problems, while failing to identify any solutions of their own. Just like voters were not fooled during the wasteful attempt to recall Governor Gavin Newsom, voters should not be tricked here. This entire recall effort is nothing more than a power grab by people who want to stay relevant and see their utility quickly slipping away.

One of the most outrageous examples of this pile on came from criminal court Judge Bruce Chan, who lambasted Boudin after a line prosecutor turned over lab notes that supported an inculpatory DNA report, a report that had been provided months earlier. Timely discovery is important, but to be clear, those results were not exculpatory, and the disclosure occurred prior to trial. Nonetheless, rather than directly addressing the attorney’s oversight, Chan took the opportunity to run through a litany of complaints about the D.A.’s office. His speech made its way online and in the press within hours, as Chan no doubt intended.

Judge Chan’s behavior is reflective of this entire recall movement: people want headlines but don’t actually care about or want to do the work to achieve solutions. Instead, they are using the moment to stay relevant. Indeed a former Deputy District Attorney, upset over Boudin’s use of mental health treatment where feasible in lieu of incarceration, recently grabbed the spotlight to attack Boudin for insisting a case be resolved with treatment. She ignored that this resolution is what the victims wanted and what the medical experts believed to be the optimal outcome, wanting media attention instead of the result that would make the community the safest.

At a time when we need to be hyper-focused on building up the most vulnerable in our community, this behavior and this recall is a dangerous distraction, fueled by people afraid of being left behind and without power. Our city must work tirelessly to implement public health solutions that build communities up. We need to restrict the availability of guns at a time when sales have spiked. We must increase treatment beds for those who have substance use disorders or a serious mental illness. We need to construct supportive housing at at least the same clip that we build tech towers and fancy campuses.

Chesa Boudin is pushing for these solutions. He is suing ghost gun manufacturers, and he is constantly at the Board of Supervisors, asking it to fund preventative interventions. He is diverting those who suffer from substance use disorders and mental illness out of the criminal justice system and into treatment. He has implemented innovative programming to keep juveniles out of adult court and into restorative justice interventions where they can make amends to their victims while getting the support that they need to get back on the right track. Boudin’s bold vision is the type of leadership that we need. Is everything perfect under his leadership? Of course not. But does he have San Francisco on a course we can be proud of? Undoubtedly, yes.

Like with California’s Gubernatorial recall, San Franciscans will soon have a choice — fall prey to those who like to get in the news while complaining about problems, or support those who, like Boudin and Newsom, are doing the hard work of solving them. This city should not go backward to a time where a lack of will and innovation left us with jail and prison as our only public safety tools. We should reject the recall, and the grandstanding that goes with it.

Anne Irwin is the founder and director of Smart Justice California, which advocates for local and state criminal justice reform. She is a third generation San Franciscan.

Anne Irwin

As Director of Smart Justice California, Anne works to elect and educate state and local policymakers who champion smart, meaningful criminal justice reforms.

(Contributed by Juliet Chaitin-Lefcourt)

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