by Valerie Ibarra
District Attorney Brooke Jenkins on Aug. 3 announced policies with regard to drug cases. Mano Raju, the elected public defender of San Francisco, issues the following statement in response:
“The District Attorney’s newly announced policies around drug cases are exactly the type of regressive and carceral practices that have exacerbated the public health crisis of substance abuse and have only fueled the mass incarceration of impoverished people and disproportionately harmed BIPOC communities for decades.
“Seeking pretrial detention for more people will only intensify the public health crisis in our jails, which are in the midst of a record COVID outbreak, and the constitutional crisis in our courts, where hundreds of people are waiting for trials past their speedy trial deadline. Judges still must adhere to the California Supreme Court’s Humphrey decision that prevents jailing people simply because they are too poor to post cash bail.
Enhancements for any offense have never been shown to be effective at prevention or intervention and have never been applied in a race-neutral way.
“We know that jailing people who are suffering from addiction can lead to worse health outcomes, such as overdoses. We also know that many of the people who get arrested for drug sales also use drugs and have been set up by police in ‘buy-bust’ operations to sell small subsistence amounts to undercover officers.
“To use an arbitrary amount of drugs to exclude people from participating in Community Justice Court will prevent meaningful intervention and support for people trying to get out of drug sales and overcome substance abuse.
“With the number and proximity of schools in San Francisco, the DA is using a broad stroke to threaten people with sentence enhancements, which will not address the public health crisis of drug addiction. Enhancements for any offense have never been shown to be effective at prevention or intervention and have never been applied in a race-neutral way.
“If District Attorney Jenkins truly wants to address the issues facing our city, she should not be relying on outdated and politically expedient soundbites about harsher enforcement. Fifty years of evidence from the war on drugs have shown that these punitive practices have not prevented recidivism nor improved community health and safety.
“San Francisco can and must do better than this. We should instead invest our city’s resources in funding more effective solutions, such as housing, jobs and treatment.”
Valerie Ibarra, public information officer for the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, can be reached at Valerie.Ibarra@sfgov.org.