DA Chesa Boudin, right, speaks with Ear Hustle producer and former San Quentin inmate Earlonne Woods. Photo by Loi Almeron

San Francisco’s new district attorney, Chesa Boudin, sat down for a conversation with PRX Ear Hustle producer Earlonne Woods Wednesday night at Manny’s on 16th Street and Valencia — his first public appearance since taking the oath of office on Jan. 8.

With about 200 people in attendance, it was a standing-room-only crowd of San Francisco residents of all ages. The conversation focused on Boudin’s plans on following through with his campaign promises on criminal justice reform and working with critics of his campaign.

The public defender-turned-prosecutor has already started pushing to enact two major policies on his first two weeks in office. Last week he launched the Primary Caregiver Diversion Program, which is a pretrial diversion program for parents of minor children. Both of Boudin’s parents went to prison when he was just 14 months old; he says he was also a victim of their crimes. He said that victims are “an afterthought to the state” and his diversion program would keep families together while also facilitating immediate rehabilitation of defendants.

Boudin also announced that on Wednesday, he introduced a policy to end cash bail in criminal cases in San Francisco. “We will never put a price tag on freedom,” he said. Although judges still have the power to impose cash bail, Boudin said that his office will object to such moves.

“We seem to have a limitless budget for punishment,” he said. “We can hold people accountable without sending them to prison.” In line with Boudin’s campaign, a lot of the conversation revolved around restorative justice and rehabilitation.

Woods — a former San Quentin inmate whose show explores stories of prison life — asked about Boudin’s position on California Penal Code 1170-D. That’s a provision allowing the District Attorney to review cases for resentencing. Boudin said that his office will take advantage of the provision; with some applicable prosecutions going back decades, Boudin said that everyone’s case deserves to be reviewed. 

Boudin said that throwing people in jail has been the “first response to all our social problems” and that he intends to change that. “Bring that humanity, bring that compassion,” he said. Boudin discussed his plans to close Juvenile Hall and decrepit County Jail 4, and his opposition to the state’s three-strikes law. He also said that it has been the “default approach” for prosecutors to oppose releases during commutations. “We have better things to do than oppose,” he said. This statement also reflected his stance on working with his critics.

“I have your back,” he said about working with law enforcement agencies. Boudin said that he doesn’t have any hard feelings towards critics of his campaign. He mentioned that he already had productive meetings with, among others, the police department and its union, the Police Officers Association.

However, the district attorney admitted that “equal enforcement of the law” is a challenge in terms of holding police officers accountable — and penning statewide legislation or otherwise altering laws regarding police use-of-force is not necessarily within the purview or scope of his office. 

Boudin said he encourages everyone to stay informed and engaged with the work of his office. He said that to keep the “movement active,” he and his office will “stay in campaign mode.”

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7 Comments

  1. Yahoo!

    You rock, Chesa.

    Will drop those news clips at front desk Monday.

    Thataway, I’ll get the Sunday ones.

    Give me an email address that doesn’t go thru intermediaries.

    Go Niners!

    h.

  2. New York City has been doing this no cash bail since January 1st. It’s not working out… they’re trying to get it repealed. So far they’ve let out a serial attacker and bank robber. What’s next?

  3. Two things in this article give me great pause:

    (1) “I have your back,” he said about working with law enforcement agencies.

    (2) However, the district attorney admitted that “equal enforcement of the law” is a challenge in terms of holding police officers accountable — and penning statewide legislation or otherwise altering laws regarding police use-of-force is not necessarily within the purview or scope of his office.

    You can’t hold police accountable and “have their back” at the same time. What gives?

    Also, since the new use of force law will probably be interpreted as not that much different from the old use of force law, I would say that Boudin’s “office” might want to spend a little time on this issue.

    I hope this is not a case of “meet the new boss, same as the old boss”.

    1. “You can’t hold police accountable and “have their back” at the same time. What gives?”

      I can see where you are coming from, but I think it is doable.

      I interpreted it as: “I will support the PD when they do the right thing and I will work to provide better ways to hold them accountable when they don’t.”

      I could see the PD not liking that…but whatevs. They’ve had a free reign too long.

  4. Bets are open on when the first qualifying Boudin recall petitions are filed. Preliminary over/under is July 4.

  5. If he Boudin cared about victims his Assistant DAs would ask for cash bail to keep their “alleged” victimizers behind bars and away from victims. Criminals will be free to show up at their victim’s front doors to encourage them to drop charges.

    New York’s version of this is such a disaster that even the democrat politician’s are trying to repeal it – you know it’s bad when that happens. We’ll see the lunacy of Boudin’s thug-coddling approach play out on San Francisco’s already lawless streets soon enough.

    1. There is no problem that the marriage of capitalism and the criminal justice system can’t solve!

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