Chesa Boudin, San Francisco’s top prosecutor, is recalled

San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin will face a recall election next year after a backlash in one of America’s most liberal cities to his policies to reduce the number of people in prisons and prisons.

Election officials in San Francisco certified this week that supporters of the recall had gathered enough signatures to force an election in June, when Californians vote in a statewide primary for the governor’s seats. and Congress. The district attorney competition will serve as a test to see how far liberal prosecutors can go to change the justice system at a time of growing concern about crime.

Mr Boudin, a former public defender whose childhood story of a son of incarcerated parents was at the heart of his campaign two years ago, is among a number of liberal prosecutors who were recently elected on the promise to reduce incarceration and address racial prejudice within the criminal justice system.

But Mr. Boudin, like other liberal prosecutors in places like Philadelphia and Los Angeles, has been strongly repelled by conservative activists, as well as other residents concerned about public safety, who say he doesn’t take a tough enough line on crime and its policies have made San Francisco less safe.

Mr. Boudin also faced opposition from his own office, which experienced high turnover rates, as some prosecutors resigned in protest against the ministry’s policies.

Office homicide attorney Brooke Jenkins, who said she supports Mr Boudin’s efforts to reduce prison terms and tackle racial prejudice and said she identifies as a progressive, recently resigned and supported the recall effort, citing mismanagement and low morale.

“It is my perception that Chesa does not have the desire to actually and effectively prosecute the crime in any way,” Ms. Jenkins said. “While he has run on a platform of being progressive and reform-oriented, his methodology for doing this is simply to free individuals earlier or to come up with some very lenient advocacy deals. “

During his tenure, Mr. Boudin became a polarizing figure in San Francisco, a place where many voters embraced the idea of ​​transforming the criminal justice system by locking up fewer people, but at the same time grew weary of petty crime and scenes of despair in the streets of the city.

Fears of rising crime have divided the city, even though it has failed to cope with the kind of increase in homicides and gun violence other major cities have experienced since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Unlike Oakland across the bay, which faces a steep rise in homicides, the main concerns in San Francisco are property crimes like theft and burglary, and quality of life issues like open-air drug trafficking and the proliferation of homeless settlements.

“Everyone is wondering why the prosecutor’s office doesn’t pick up these people and throw them in jail so that I don’t have to look at them anymore,” said Lara Bazelon, professor at the faculty. law student from the University of San Francisco who is a supporter of M. Boudin. “This is not the way the law works. It is not a crime to be homeless.

Mr Boudin described the recall effort as being driven by traditional law and order conservatives who want to back down, such as not asking judges to post a cash bond, asking for more lenient sentences and sending less. minors in prison.

“This is clearly a reform of the criminal justice system,” he said. “It’s about whether we’re going to move forward and continue to implement data-driven policies that center victims of crime, invest in communities affected by crime, and use evidence.” empirical evidence to address the root causes of crime in our communities. if we go back to the failed policies of Reagan and Trump.

While fears about crime fueled the recall effort, the data tells a more nuanced story: Major crimes fell 23% overall last year, according to the San Francisco Police Department, so even as burglaries and car thefts increased.

Part of the problem, said Boudin, is that police are arresting fewer people – an issue he attributes in part to the pandemic as many perpetrators, wearing masks to protect them from the virus, are difficult to identify.

On Tuesday evening, Mr. Boudin was walking out of an event at a local university when a man approached him and said, “When are you going to start making arrests?”

“I told him, I’m not going to start making arrests,” he said. “That’s not what the prosecutor is doing. We do not make arrests.

While some of the big sum behind the recall effort comes from conservative donors – the biggest donor to an earlier effort was David Sacks, a conservative venture capitalist and former PayPal executive – the coalition that lines up against Mr Boudin also includes Democrats and others like Ms Jenkins who identify as progressives but believe M. Boudin’s policy is too radical.

This recall effort follows the unsuccessful attempt to oust Governor Gavin Newsom, which was fueled in large part by Conservative anger over the policies and business closures the governor had used to contain the virus.

George Gascón, Mr Boudin’s predecessor as San Francisco district attorney, has faced similar efforts to remove him from office since being elected as Los Angeles chief prosecutor on a similar pledge of reduction terms of imprisonment. A first the signature collection campaign failed, but a new effort to recall it is underway.

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