Finding the right solutions for justice reform in San Francisco
In San Francisco, we prioritize public safety and the protection of our residents and visitors. We believe that individuals must be held responsible when they break the law. Over the years, however, jail systems across the United States have incarcerated too many people for too long. Today we know that incarceration of misdemeanants and nonviolent offenders can undermine public health and safety over the long term.
We remain committed to protecting the residents of this city, but a justice system that traps too many individuals in an endless cycle of incarceration and poverty requires reform. Further, a significant portion of our jail population is housed in the seismically unsafe, obsolete Hall of Justice. They must be transitioned out of that facility. That is why we are pursuing a combination of changes to our criminal justice system. We will:
Seek bail reform, beginning with my support for SB10 and AB42, two bail reform measures recently introduced in Sacramento that will provide judges greater flexibility to assign lower bails, but include options for additional conditions of release without compromising public safety that ensure the defendant will appear in court. The median bail amount in California is $50,000, a punitively high level that is completely unaffordable for most offenders, many of whom come from disadvantaged and low-income communities. As a result, California has a jail population that is disproportionately filled with young men of color.
Avoid incarceration of people with substance abuse issues or mental illnesses by launching a new initiative called Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, or LEAD-SF. This will prevent needless incarceration, instead providing community-based health and social services.
Increase electronic monitoring and pretrial diversion programs to provide enhanced supervision to offenders who may not otherwise be eligible for release. This increased investment ensures that rather than awaiting trial in jail, offenders are following conditions set by a judge for programming, treatment or other individually assessed needs.
Work harder to reduce recidivism by expanding the hours of operation of the Community Assessment and Services Center, a one-stop shop that provides a wide range of re-entry services for formerly incarcerated adults, including case management, mental health and substance abuse treatment services, along with vocational training. The center will be open 24 hours a day to provide immediate diversion for those individuals eligible for LEAD-SF program.
In San Francisco, the trend toward incarceration of nonviolent offenders has been reversed through implementation of jail alternatives that began 40 years ago with diversion of first-time offenders from the criminal justice system. Today, most misdemeanor arrestees are issued citations at the scene. Others, including felony arrestees, are evaluated by a validated risk assessment tool that provides for release of nonviolent offenders and determines appropriate levels of supervision for each.
For those sentenced to county jail, we offer robust alternatives to incarceration including residential treatment, school, community work and electronic monitoring. Without these innovative alternatives, San Francisco’s average daily jail population would be nearly double what it is today.
The success of these programs is promising, but we know there is still much to accomplish. That’s why we have committed to bail reform, increased investment in electronic monitoring and more programs to reduce recidivism. Together, we will work to improve the systems in place and continue to look for proven innovations that result in less incarceration.