The San Francisco DA Race: The Campaign Issues and Candidates’ Stances

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By Danielle Silva

The San Francisco County election for District Attorney is tomorrow – here are where the candidates stand on the following issues.

THE CANDIDATES’ STANCES

Bail Reform

Chesa Boudin: Believes that cash bail benefits the wealthy who may be dangerous and can go free while keeping the poor in jail. He claims he will never look for money bail that is equivalent to detention and will only seek detention of defendants who are at serious flight risk or a danger to the community. Part of the class-action lawsuit Buffin v. Hennessey where two defendants were unconstitutionally kept in jail without being charged with a crime. The Board will decide if they will receive repayment on Nov. 6.

Leif Dautch: Believes that cash bail should be eliminated. He wants to replace the bail with a system based on public safety and flight risk rather than wealth and require “ability-to-pay” assessments for court fees and fines. He also refuses to accept funds from the bail industry.

Suzy Loftus: States she wants to end the cash bail system.

Nancy Tung: Does not believe in eliminating the cash bail system but believes in changing the bail system.

Drugs and Drug Crimes

Chesa Boudin: Wants to refocus prosecutorial resources in the War on Drugs to stop abusive drug companies and their co-conspirator service-providers, believing it has failed, in part because it focuses on street-level dealers and users while huge pharmaceutical companies market addictive opiate pain pills and bribe doctors to over-prescribe them. He plans to move prosecutions up the supply chain, investigating pharmaceutical corporations and ancillary companies: online drugstores, online advertisers, couriers and transportation companies.

Leif Dautch: Believes there should be more enforcement against illegal drug deals.

Suzy Loftus: Plans to “crackdown on open-air drug dealing” and also ending the war on drugs and replacing it with a war on inequity and lack of opportunity. She plans to work with the public health system to expand access to drug treatment and care for people struggling with mental illness.

Nancy Tung: Intends to arrest and prosecute street-level dealers who prey on those suffering from addiction and victimize communities with impunity, target gangs and organized crime to disrupt mid-level supply chains, partner with other law enforcement agencies to produce maximum results against the worst offenders, investigate and criminally prosecute doctors, medical professionals, and pharmacies for overprescribing pharmaceutical opioids, and engage in civil law enforcement actions against medical corporations or pharmaceutical companies that illegally push their drugs, either by violations of law or unfair business practices.

Juvenile Detention Facility and Juvenile Crimes

Chesa Boudin: Supported the closing of the juvenile hall since day one, stating he did not support “putting kids in cages.” In the UC Hastings debate, he states, “We need to transform the contacts that young people have with the juvenile justice system into opportunities for rehabilitation and intervention.” He plans to encourage diversion for non-serious, non-violent offenses, greater access to community services, a new detention home for serious and violent offenses, and capping probation for juveniles at 10 months.

Leif Dautch: States he supported the closing of the juvenile detention center, saying he “will not be seeking life without the possibility of parole sentences for people under 26,” as well as promoting a “Kids in the Courtroom” program to address the racial achievement gap in our public schools, require implicit bias training for prosecutors on an ongoing basis, and promote a Universal Basic Income pilot project targeted at those most likely to be victims or perpetrators of violent crime, similar to programs already done by non-profits.

Suzy Loftus: States she has a plan “to end the incarceration of children as we know it” with Governor Gavin Newsom and children should be treated like children and expand diversion programs for adults and youth.

Nancy Tung: Expressed she didn’t feel the juvenile hall should close yet, stating that some child defendants may be too violent or too dangerous for the public. She states San Francisco can’t service these children but doesn’t believe they should be outsourced.

Mass Incarceration and Racial Disparities

Chesa Boudin: States he’s been fighting mass incarceration his whole career and believes ending mass incarceration and addressing the racial disparity in incarceration includes ending the three-strikes sentencing policy, eliminating money bail, establishing a Wrongful Convictions Unit, protecting immigrant families, replacing jail with mental health care, reforming youth justice, and eradicating racial bias from the justice system. He plans to address racial disparities by implementing a racial impact statement in every case, declining evidence gathered in a racially motivated manner, and requiring implicit bias training for staff.

Leif Dautch: Plans to make publicly-available data on every stage of every case prosecuted by the office, allowing the public to easily track cases from arrest to charging to disposition to sentence, have prosecutors highlight the costs of incarceration, expand restorative justice programs to more defendants and more offenses, reduce legal and regulatory barriers to housing, education, voting, and employment so that people returning from jail or prison can build a stable and productive life, and connect the community to the courthouse by upgrading the DA’s website and case management portal.

Suzy Loftus: Acknowledges mass incarceration is a problem – she does, however, defend the current system in San Francisco as “San Francisco incarcerates at one-third of the rate of the rest of the country. And half of the rate of California.” She supports the idea of neighborhood courts and restorative justice and plans to hire Alternative Sentencing Planners to work with prosecutors to design individualized sentences intended to break the cycle of recidivism, partner with community members, community-based organizations, and city agencies to implement innovative community-led solutions to address the social and economic factors that detract from our collective safety, and make diversion programs available to all regardless of a person’s ability to pay.

Nancy Tung: States that San Francisco “send the second least amount of people per capita to state prison” and shared, “We have been so progressive in San Francisco that if you would replicate our incarceration rates across the country, we would not have mass incarceration anymore.” She stated there are currently education and rehabilitation programs in place that the SF DA should make more public but also states that she wants to deepen community engagement with local neighborhood and community groups to identify and tenaciously fix problems that threaten public safety and make legislation to address those concerns.

Police Accountability

Chesa Boudin: Plans to expand the DA Investigations Division’s capacity to investigate corruption and corporate crime and also agrees to address police shootings, personally make charging decisions in every officer-involved shooting case, throw out evidence marred by racial bias, excessive force, or other police misconduct, and have a transparent process for the public to be aware of how they are handling cases. He also intends to decline prosecuting cases where officers have a history of racist behavior.

Leif Dautch: Claims he will bring the necessary independence, objectivity, and prosecutorial experience to these cases, make charging decisions within 6 months, hold town halls to explain charging decisions, explore all charging options, and work with the SFPD to promote de-escalation training for officers.

Suzy Loftus: Promised to have the Independent Investigations Bureau make charging decisions against police officers in their personal capacity and investigate each officer-involved shooting with the highest level of integrity, independence, and transparency to ensure answers are provided and officers are held accountable where they have broken the law. There has been some attention from the families of police-shooting victims who have been protesting her appointment as interim SF DA, stating she did not help investigate those cases while she was President of the Police Commission.

Nancy Tung: Plans to complete all officer-related shooting investigations within 6 months with monthly updates if the investigation lasts longer, investigate and prosecute officers who commit crimes under color of law or criminally abuse their authority, work with SFPD leadership to identify issues in screening or training and work to prevent future incidents, develop real partnerships and working relationships with the police officers who serve our communities, and work with the SFPD and Police Commission to emphasize de-escalation methods of engagement and non-lethal alternatives to firearms.

Private Property Crime, Car Break-Ins, and Traffic Laws

Chesa Boudin: Believes that car break-ins should be addressed in two different ways: break-ins that are part of organized crime should aim to take down the entire network rather than catch one offender at a time; break-ins that stem from poverty or addiction should be addressed through “extensive restorative justice policy coupled with [Boudin’s] comprehensive mental health policy.”

Leif Dautch: Plans to prosecute fraudulent evictions to keep people in their homes, launching an anti-burglary force, exploring alternatives to incarceration, and leveraging technology to better detect and apprehend auto-burglars through ideas generated at the civic tech hack-a-thon.

Suzy Loftus: Intends to increase targeted law enforcement operations to stop the car break-in epidemic, launch an auto burglary strike force to prosecute repeat offenders, collaborate with the police on undercover operations to stop the break-ins before they happen, and build neighborhood-based solutions to prevent new hotspots. She wants to address more property crimes in San Francisco.

Nancy Tung: Wants to prioritize prosecutions of crimes that affect the community as a whole, including car break-ins, theft, and burglaries which impact public safety, and improve a partnership with the police department and other agencies in preventing property crimes. She also plans to support legislation making it easier to prosecute auto burglaries and invite affected communities to share the impact of crime in court during trials.

Sexual Assault Crimes and Testing Rape Kits

Chesa Boudin: Finds that many people who are accused of crimes can be survivors of sexual assault and many who are sent to prison will be sexually assaulted there as well. He plans to prioritize sexual assault cases and implement policy to have every rape kit tested, making those results available to victims/survivors and defendants, establish a sex crime review team, proactively prosecute sex crimes against underserved communities, and implement a sexual violence task force.

Leif Dautch: Plans to eliminate the rape kit backlog as there is no excuse for an untested rape kit. He pointed out that out of 757 reported sexual assaults last year in the city, the DA’s office only got nine convictions after trial and believes “It is outrageous in San Francisco, at the height of the me-too movement, that we are not doing right by the survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.”

Suzy Loftus: Plans to review every eligible sexual assault case and hold perpetrators of sexual violence accountable, specifically using her first 100 days to “convene a team to re-examine every eligible rape case that was discharged for lack of evidence.” She believes in providing more support to victims and survivors.

Nancy Tung: Has a history working as a domestic violence prosecutor and working with the cooperative restraining order clinic. She argued for more funding and programs for sexual assault victims.

Victim Rights and Protection

Chesa Boudin: Looks to expand restorative justice programs, a method by which to use a survivor-centered approach to harm and mostly used by San Francisco in juvenile cases, to adult criminal cases, changing the approach to crimes as accountability rather than punishment, and focusing on making victims feel heard and protected from retraumatization. Boudin is also the only one with a stance on wrongful convictions, noting that he would establish a Wrongful Conviction Unit (WCU), create an Innocence Commission of Experts to Pre-Screen Cases for the WCU that reports directly to the da, and empower the WCU to review past convictions and make policy recommendations to avoid future wrongful convictions

Leif Dautch: Plans to expand victim/witness service programs and use trauma-informed, survivor-centric approaches to solving and prosecuting crime,  follow the lead of Alameda County and develop a Family Justice Center to integrate services and support for victims of domestic violence, child abuse, human trafficking, and elder abuse, confront the recent rise in hate crimes, particularly against our Latino, Muslim, Jewish, and LGBTQ communities, and protect Consumers by creating an “Elder Justice Coordinator” to oversee prosecutions involving financial and physical crimes against senior citizens.

Suzy Loftus: Plans to eliminate the bureaucracy between victims and the resources they need, to invest more in resources for survivors, to decrease the criminalization of women, girls, trans, and LGBTQ youth of color by developing community strategies to address the underlying economic and social realities – such as sexual abuse, exploitation, and homelessness – that often result in incarceration, and to protect access to safe and free reproductive healthcare for all women, especially in communities of color.

Nancy Tung: Aims to proactively provide resources to victims and survivors of crime to work towards resolution and recovery, work with police, create public education campaigns, work with local elementary schools to make sure students know when to ask for help and are healthy and safe, and mobilizing and empowering Victim Advocates to work with victims who are limited in mobility and receiving help.


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