WHY I’M VOTING “NO” ON PROP. H
I Oppose the Recall of Chesa Boudin
Billionaires, tech moguls, and “law and order” advocates have tried to recall Chesa Boudin since he won the 2019 election for District Attorney and began his term in January 2020. I’m strongly opposed to the latest recall effort heavily financed by a Republican-leaning billionaire (a previous attempt failed to gain enough signatures for the ballot). Ditto the cheap red-baiting accompanying it.
I’m tired of deep pockets seeking to undermine democratic elections because they CAN, and to undermine the widely-recognized need to reform policing and the prison system, treat people who’ve committed crimes with dignity that every human being deserves, and level the playing field concerning arrests, pre-trial bail, and sentencing of people of color. For these reasons, I oppose the recall.
Ending the school-to-prison pipeline and strengthening communities of color torn apart by crime, family separation, and imprisonment, are goals that dovetail with diversion-to-appropriate treatment and mental health services initiatives like those being implemented by Chesa Boudin”
Chesa Boudin is one of a new breed of public prosecutors whose reform agenda goes against the grain of fear-mongering, amped up and lingering since the 2016 presidential election, and fed for the past two years by the pandemic. Fear – all around us -- is as contagious as disease, while a sense of safety requires community engagement, something harder to feel behind COVID’s heightened walls of isolation.
Those seeking to recall Boudin would have us believe he’s responsible for the statistical rise in crime that’s occurred since the pandemic, which coincided with his taking office. Research, however, suggests otherwise: that correlation doesn’t prove cause. As Susie Neilsen reported in the SF Chronicle (April 8), “While many in the city believe Boudin is responsible for changes in crime rates, for better and worse, research suggests district attorneys typically have little impact on the crime rate.” That is, there’s no evidence to support this claimed connection. Another reason I oppose the recall.
Last year, researchers looked at crime rate trends in districts with progressive DA’s, in relation to crime rate trends in other places, and found no statistically significant difference between the districts since the progressive prosecutors took office. “The truth about crime trends in San Francisco is complex, and reported crime data does not clearly show a trend toward [reforms] worsening public safety,” Neilsen stated.
A rise in crime may well reflect other economic changes though: shut-down of the local economy, forcing people – and businesses – to seek government relief, or illegal ways of supporting themselves, while salaried employees remain stable, and billionaires watch their fortunes grow!
Self-interest motivates those who’d recall Boudin: police unions and prison guard unions — whose budget shares depend on crime — and elected officials whose campaigns these unions help fund. (Likewise, some tech industry heads may feel threatened by Boudin’s launching an Economic Crimes Against Workers Unit to investigate wage theft resulting from classifying certain employees as independent contractors, and depriving them of health benefits and unemployment insurance.) Recall supporters cling to the false cause-and-effect crime narrative and like to paint this reformer as “soft on crime.”
Yet, prosecution requires arrests that police reportedly are reticent to make if they won’t result in felony convictions with prison time. (Prop. 47, passed by voters in 2014, five years before Boudin took office, raised the dollar amount bar for felonies, and opened a window, retroactively, for sentence review of those serving time who had been convicted of lesser thefts.) The press mostly picks up on sensational incident stories and raw statistics. As someone committed to fact-based reporting and thoughtful analysis, I oppose the recall.
I’m in good company: Boudin has progressive unions standing behind him – including nurses, SEIU, teachers, hotel workers -- as well as the Democratic County Central Committee, the S.F. Chronicle, and ACLU of Northern California. The ACLU applauds his achievements which support its values. It opposes the recall because Boudin has implemented public safety policies that hold people accountable and reduce youth and adult incarceration, including:
— ending cash bail; creating a commission to review wrongful convictions; reducing the county jail population; expanding rigorous prison diversion programs; and committing to never charge children as adults. These changes address a legal system “that disproportionately punishes Black and Brown people,” it says.
The ACLU also applauds Boudin’s efforts since taking office to put violent police officers on trial when they break the law, including a police officer who assaulted an unarmed Black man with a baton, and another officer for homicide. It supports programs he’s initiated to house and transport survivors of domestic and sexual violence. And he’s blown the whistle on police misuse of rape kits to link survivors to unrelated crimes that discourages reporting of sexual assault. As a card-carrying member of the ACLU, I, too, support these initiatives and oppose the recall.
Additionally, I support “decarceration” – not the same as prison or police abolition. Decarceration encompasses government and community strategies to reduce incarceration and lower the number of people imprisoned and in pre-trial custody by diverting those committing non-violent misdemeanor crimes to programs that address their physical and mental health, rather than warehousing them at high daily cost to taxpayers. It aims to reallocate resources to community-based support of people with low-level criminal convictions so as to prevent recurrence, and to restore their civil rights.
Zack Norris, an Oakland-born, Harvard-educated attorney, and until very recently, director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, wrote a narrative- transforming book on the disparate racial impact of the criminal justice system, and alternatives to it that retain accountability. Its title: Defund Fear. Using actual stories and statistics, he describes how restorative justice -- bringing those who’ve committed crimes into relationship with those they’ve harmed, to face the destructive impact of their actions and negotiate restitution -- can turn lives of both around and help heal wounds of both the individuals and their families.
Ending the school-to-prison pipeline and strengthening communities of color torn apart by crime, family separation, and imprisonment, are goals that dovetail with diversion-to-appropriate treatment and mental health services initiatives like those being implemented by Chesa Boudin. As someone who experienced family separation first hand, he knows the pain of prison separation and the true value of community support.
I support Boudin’s insightful reform agenda – and want to see the resources saved through prison diversion invested in programs that educate, heal wounds, redirect lives, and preserve communities. Ample reasons to oppose Prop. H, say NO to the DA’s recall, and give this reformer’s agenda a chance.
D. M. Scott is an Outer Sunset resident, a freelance writer and former editor of Legal Services publications.