Attorneydiction.com,- SF District Attorney Chesa Boudin discusses the various obstacles he must overcome. Inside and outside his own district attorney’s office, as a progressive prosecutor committed to restoring justice at the 16th Annual John Jay / Harry Frank Guggenheim American Symposium, which ends Friday.
Boudin, along with other reform lawyers, spoke at a panel exploring the prospects of a progressive prosecutor movement.
The SF District Attorney is one of many reform minded prosecutors beginning to gain traction across the country, prioritizing policies that work to end mass arrests, while giving attention and support : “to those whose crimes stem from the underlying struggle.”
The progressive DA movement first got media attention in 2016, when a handful of reformist prosecutors beat up old prosecutors in cities like Chicago, Philadelphia and Boston.
While these lawyers represent only a fraction of the 2,400 national prosecutors, the jurisdiction in which they emerge is a winning account for a large portion of the nation’s prison population, explained Miriam Krinsky, founder of the Fair and Fair Prosecutor’s Office and a speaker at the symposium.
While there has been momentum of a progressive prosecutor movement in recent years, opposition criticism voiced by lawmakers, police unions, judges and even other DAs has always been there, he said.
Chesa Boudin, who has been criticized for his progressive policies since he was elected in 2020, told the panel that the only way to fight opposition is to “let the data speak for itself.”
“There are so many people in police unions and on conservative television talk shows that they will swear to you that if you reduce the prison population (and) the prison population, crime will increase,” he said. “They want you to believe that the people in prison are dangerous and cruel, and if we don’t keep them in prison, they will hurt us.”
Contrary to these claims, DA Boudin noted that since San Francisco began reducing the number of people sent to prison by around 40 percent, “we are seeing a good cycle where crime rates are also declining … What’s easier for us to focus our resources on find a safe entry point for those who still exist “
Yet progressive prosecutors like Boudin are not only targeted by judges, police unions, and lawmakers, who claim they endanger public safety, but also by many lawyers in their own DA ranks.
“There are people in our own office who think they’re doing a good job, who ignore the opportunity to make more money working at big law firms, who find it hard to hear what they’ve done in five or ten years. Those years are actually more. many disadvantages than advantages, ”explained DA Boudin.
“They don’t want to believe that outsiders like me, a (former) career public lawyer, know more than they do how being a prosecutor helps improve public safety,” he said.
Attempts by prosecutors like DA Boudin face increased scrutiny from some reform -minded public defenders, such as Seattle Public Defender Representative Darcy Covert, who argues that the emphasis on the prosecutor’s role as agents of change distracts from rethinking and restructuring the way the justice system now works works.
DPD Covert, who was also present at the symposium, expressed doubts about whether the progressive movement could achieve what it wanted.
“This sets his sights on major change, systemic change, reduction or elimination of mass detention … But based on the power of the prosecution, on the idea that if you put good people in this office, they will use that power for good.” , “argued.
Covert emphasized that “prosecutors who are truly committed to making meaningful and substantial changes to the system must support reducing the power and resources of their offices, and developing power and resources elsewhere.
DA Boudin responded to the comments, explaining that elected prosecutors are often hampered by political statements in their territories.
“We are faced with a world where if I step aside and stop trying drug cases that I know are ineffective in response to the serious challenges we face with overdose deaths, the money will not go to services. of public health neither to the reduction of dangers nor to the safe use of the site, ”said Boudin.
“As a practical matter, the United States Attorney will start prosecuting people for the same case, and the United States Attorney is working with ICE, and these people are deported,” he replied. “A lawyer practicing in federal court called me and asked me not to stop suing drug cases.”
DA Boudin says the biggest hurdle is finding effective ways to respond to those who commit violence and those who feel attacked. Punishing people simply doesn’t serve the purpose of justice – holding people accountable for their crimes, he said.
DA Boudin cites his parents, Katherine and David, as examples. Both were members of Weather Underground and were convicted and jailed for their role in the 1981 robbery that killed two police officers and a security guard.
“When one of the victims of my father’s crime visited him, in prison, when he confronted him and understood his humanity, and heard his story, the danger that his crime caused, it was done more for his understanding and for his mercy, and for his remorse. That can be done for decades in the barn, “Boudin said.