SF District Attorney and Public Defender Unite to Release Incarcerated People Amidst COVID-19

By Lea Barrios

SAN FRANCISCO–To prevent the spread of COVID-19, representatives from the San Francisco District Attorney’s and Public Defender’s offices have written Gov. Gavin Newsom imploring the state to consider resentencing to release eligible incarcerated people.

The letter begins with the concern that the virus can easily spread in detention centers, prisons, jails, and facilities where proper social distancing cannot be executed. The former Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Scott Kernan, called these facilities “a tinderbox of potential infection.”

An inmate in Los Angeles County tested positive for the virus which indicates that measures should be put in place quickly to prevent the virus from spreading throughout California.

According to the California Department of Public Health, there have been 6,932 positive cases and 150 deaths in California as of March 30, 2020.

San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin and San Francisco Public Defender Manohar Raju proposed that the governor should expand and expedite the Penal Code Section 1170(d)(1) which is the “Recall of Sentence and Sentencing” meant to release incarcerated people. This process of reevaluation and release is ideal because it is done on a local level to determine if the inmate is fit to be welcomed into the public.

This measure would encourage District Attorneys to refer people for sentencing as well as local jurisdictions to process CDCR referrals expeditiously. There would be internal and external forces working on resentencing making it a swift process that would effectively release inmates that qualify.

The second proposal Boudin and Raju presented is to encourage prison officials and staff to be the internal force that identifies inmates that qualify for release because they have sought programs and resources.

They contend that the staff plays a supportive and influential role in an inmate’s resentencing by personally speaking for their improvement and readiness for release.

The last proposal they wrote is that the evaluation of release be based on the risk the inmate might pose to the public. Boudin and Raju have kept in mind the safety of the public, families affected by domestic violence, and victims in all capacities.

They pointed out that people in prison are surviving in a dangerous environment and offenses should be considered with more understanding.

In addition to that, half of the incarcerated people in California have the lowest risk for recidivism.

When considering an incarcerated person for resentencing it would be encouraged that they have a verifiable reentry plan to further ensure that their return to the public is safe.

The benefit of these actions is incarcerated people would have a second chance for their cases to be reevaluated and be released while also preventing the spread of the coronavirus to a vulnerable population of incarcerated people.

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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