The San Francisco Rising Action Fund (SFRAF) along with local organizations and community members gathered in the Excelsior district on Dec. 6 to show support for Chesa Boudin, the San Francisco District Attorney, and denounce the recall efforts against him.
Boudin, who was elected District Attorney by popular vote in 2019, is now facing a recall election next year due to what he characterizes as a Republican led effort to stop his progressive policies. Supporters of Boudin in attendance Monday morning rallied against the recall effort, championing Boudin’s work to end mass incarceration and reform the criminal justice system.
“Our communities will continue to support Chesa, because we know that it is more than supporting just one person. It is about changing a system that hurts African American, Latino, Asian, and indigenous communities and all people with fewer economic resources,” said Claudia Arevalo, a member of SEIU Local 2015.
Other community members in attendance spoke to the direct impacts the current criminal justice system has had on themselves and their families while praising the work Boudin is doing to change the status quo.
“As someone who had an incarcerated parent, I have seen that [Boudin] has been doing the work to support me and my family. Unfortunately, the incarceration system does not address the root cause of crime. It keeps people away from family, and you may think it’s fixing the problem, but it’s not,” said Diamund White, a student at City College of San Francisco and member of SFRAF.
Boudin has gained national attention during his tenure for his controversial approach to handling crime, including making good on campaign promises to end the prosecution of lower-level offences. He asserts that reducing crime requires investing in programs that address the root causes of criminal activity.
“75 percent of people booked into the San Francisco County Jail are drug addicted, mentally ill, or both. If we are serious about public safety, and I am serious about public safety, we must start looking at what drives people to commit crimes in the first place,” Boudin said. “We must make every arrest an opportunity for intervening in ways that transform lives away from crime.”
Those in attendance Monday morning shared Boudin’s vision for justice reform noting the harm that has been caused to working class communities and communities of color by the current incarceration system.
“We must oppose the recall to show that San Francisco stands for progressive criminal justice reform and that nothing will stop us from dismantling the legal system that has its roots in white supremacy and has hurt communities of color for decades,” Arevalo said.
Since taking office Boudin has worked to reduce convictions of minors as adults, end cash bail, introduce interpreters to the justice process, and hold police accountable for misconduct, among other progressive reforms.
“We have partnered with every single city agency and nonprofit willing to work with us to expand alternatives to incarceration that are tailored to the individual needs of the person who has caused harm to make sure that they don’t do it again,” Boudin said.
Proponents of the recall and critics of Boudin characterize Boudin’s position on incarceration as “soft on crime,” arguing that his policies are too lenient and do not deter criminals from engaging in illegal activity.
The most recent data from the FBI’s crime data explorer shows that both violent crime and property crime in San Francisco dropped 19% and 20% respectively between 2019 and 2020 when Boudin took office; although factors such as reduced foot traffic and tourism due to the COVID-19 pandemic likely contributed to the lower rates.
“Let’s be very clear, my conviction rate for murders has gone up compared to the prior administration. My charging rate for rape has gone up compared to the prior administration. My charging rate for felony drug possession has gone up compared to the prior administration,” Boudin said.
According to public records obtained by The San Francisco Chronicle, Boudin’s overall charging rate is currently 48%, a 6% drop when compared to the final two years of George Gascon, the previous District Attorney. However, when compared to Gascon’s final two years, Boudin rose the conviction rate for homicide from 67% to 83%, rose the charging rate for rape from 53% to 63%, and rose the charging rate for narcotics from 47% to 60%.
Boudin argues that the rhetoric of higher crime is propaganda from the political right. He asserts that the recall is a politically motivated attempt to target his policies that aim to reform the conventional justice system.
“It’s precisely because of [my] policies that the San Francisco Republican Party has endorsed the revolt against me, it is precisely because of the promises fulfilled. The billionaire, Republican donors who support the governor of Florida, who support the most radical, racist, and extremist Republicans across this country, are funding the recall against me,” Boudin said.
Those that gathered in support of Boudin expressed both hope and confidence that the recall would be defeated, allowing Boudin to continue implementing criminal justice reform.
“SF Rising Action Fund envisions a future in which all people, no matter their race, gender, zip code, or background, feel safe in their own communities. We see a future in which public safety can work for all of us,” said Javier Bremond, Campaigns and Field Organizer at SFRAF. “We look forward to working with DA Boudin to continue to reimagine the criminal legal system for one that gets to the root causes of crime while seeing all people as deserving of dignity.”