Politics

D.A. Candidate Column – Chesa Boudin

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This is a unique moment in American and San Francisco history. It is the first time in a lifetime when there is a broad national consensus that the criminal justice system is broken. It needs drastic reform. 

In San Francisco, it’s also the first time in 110 years when there’s no incumbent district attorney running for reelection – current District Attorney George Gascon is stepping down at the end of his term. This is an historic opportunity and I’m running for district attorney because we need to seize this moment. 

When I was 14 months old, my parents were incarcerated for driving the getaway car in an armed robbery that tragically took three people’s lives. My mother spent 22 years in prison. My father may never get out. Growing up, I had to go through metal detectors and steel gates just to give my parents a hug. 

Visiting prisons and working as a public defender has taught me that our criminal justice system is broken. It’s broken for victims, who all too often have nothing to show for the billions of dollars we spend on punishment; it’s broken for the children, like me, left behind when parents commit crimes; it’s broken for impacted communities; and it’s broken for the taxpayers who foot the bill for this failed system with recidivism rates above two thirds.

I’m the only candidate for district attorney who isn’t a prosecutor. I’ve never charged money bail. Instead, for years I’ve lead the fight to end money bail because it’s discriminatory and makes us less safe. I’m the founding chair of the board of Civil Rights Corps, a nonprofit doing criminal justice reform litigation in more than a dozen states. And I initiated litigation campaigns in both state and federal court aimed at ending money bail and replacing it with a risk-based system rather than a wealth-based one. My most important case is pending before the California Supreme Court and will redefine the way that California courts address pretrial release. 

I’ve also never cooperated with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Instead, I persuaded the sheriff to stop honoring ICE holds before San Francisco passed the Due Process For All Sanctuary City Policy. I’m the only candidate in this race who works at the Hall of Justice. I know the prosecutors and the defense attorneys, the judges and the juries, the police and sheriff deputies, the people accused of crimes and the communities impacted by them.

I know that a survivor-centered response to crime is essential to a safe and just society. We incarcerate record numbers of people and destroy entire communities while failing to help – and actively harming – the victims we claim to care most about. The current system doesn’t work for anyone; victims, people who commit crimes or their communities. We need a better way. My restorative justice program, the most visionary and comprehensive of any D.A. in the United States, is a crucial step in that direction.

I’m proud to be endorsed by a broad cross section of San Franciscans and criminal justice leaders around the country. Reformers like D.A. Larry Krasner in Philadelphia, D.A. Rachael Rollins in Boston and Shaun King and the Real Justice PAC support me. Local leaders including supervisors Gordon Mar, Sandra Lee Fewer, Hillary Ronen and Aaron Peskin have endorsed my campaign. Advocacy groups including the League of Conservation Voters and the Latino Democratic Club are all with me, as are current and former San Francisco police commissioners Petra DeJesus, Cindy Elias, Peter Keane and Bill Hing.  

As your district attorney, I’ll fix this system by treating every single arrest as an opportunity for intervention. We need to transform lives away from crime and stop the revolving door of recidivism. We’ll build an office as diverse as San Francisco, improving language access and cultural awareness through hiring, retaining and promoting to leadership positions a diverse staff, including in the victim services unit.

We have an amazing opportunity to fix this broken system. Please join me in doing that. Thank you.

For more information, visit www.chesaboudin.com.

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