Chasing Justice Podcast: ‘We Need to Lead with Compassion’ – SF DA Boudin Commits to Supporting Crime Victims

Chesa Boudin

By S. Priana Aquino


SAN FRANCISCO, CA – In the most recent episode of the Chasing Justice podcast, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin and Rachel Marshall look at the treatment of crime victims and survivors throughout the legal process.


“Many traditional prosecutors will pit criminal justice reform against advocating for victims, almost as if they are incompatible,” suggested Boudin.


He added, “I firmly believe it is the opposite. We have a system that needs to be fair and just for the accused, and centers and advocates for victims, and right now, I don’t think the traditional system… does either of these things.”


Boudin and Marshall refer to the 2019 safety and justice report, which states that according to crime victims, 5:1 of them believe prison makes it more likely that someone will commit crimes again or that it simply has no public impact at all.


Citing additional statistics, one third of Californians have been a victim of crime. Furthermore, younger people with an income of less than $25,000 are twice more likely to be crime victims than older people with an income of $50,000-plus.


Joining the podcast were Tinisch Hollins, the Executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice, and Sandra Henriquez, CEO of Valor US (formerly California Coalition Against Sexual Assault).


Both work towards increasing support for crime victims and advocating for alternative methods to mass incarceration. Additionally, both center their work on addressing the root of the crimes committed.


“We do believe that many of the tough on crime approaches of the past have impacted our community, communities of color, marginalized communities disproportionately, and that has impacted safety for all of us,” said Hollins.


“If we’re listening to the community and understanding what the root causes are of these incidents…we are a lot more likely to stop these crimes,” Hollins added.


Henriquez elaborated on this point through a lens of sexual assault crimes: an emphasis in Valor US’s work.


“We need to deal with a lot of the systemic issues and trauma that people perpetrate afterwards,” said Henriquez. “We also believe that it’s really important to get to young people about attitudes and behaviors. That needs to be a part of the investment. Talking about what healthy relationships look like and how to engage in them, etc.”


Hollins and Henriquez highlight the necessary work to prevent crimes before they happen which is a concept that also underscores Boudin’s work.


The DA argues that the debate about how to support crime victims often gets simplified, and ultimately ends in waiting for a person to do something bad and then intervening in ineffective ways.


In response to the oversimplification Boudin references, Hollins points out that the debate becomes very binary when many folks who have committed crimes also end up becoming victims themselves.


So how has Boudin worked to both protect crime victims and increase accessibility to those who have committed crimes?


“For me, it has always been an essential part of the reform I am trying to implement, which is to figure out how to invest savings from changes that are made on the punishment side of the criminal justice system, and invest that money and those resources in really centering and supporting the people who have been harmed,” said Boudin.


“As DA, I’ve fought to expand the victim services unit both in terms of language access, to hiring clinical social workers, who can help provide the longer term trauma informed support that victims of the most serious crimes need,” he added.


When asked about what still needs to be done to further expand support to crime victims, Henriquez says that first and foremost, we need to listen to victims.


“There’s a lot we can learn from people who have caused harm and they need to be included in these conversations about what would’ve helped,” noted Henriquez.


Hollins echoed the precious point stating the importance of getting to the root of why these crimes are committed, maintaining “when we talk about accountability and also couple that with prevention, rehabilitation, and access to resources for survivors to heal, we are able to achieve safety for everyone.”


Boudin said he remains committed to continuing the expansion of his office’s victim crimes unit and dedicated to continuing work done by both Hollins and Henriquez.


“We need to lead with compassion. We’ve made an effort to try and treat victims of crime with respect and passion regardless of what the law allows us to do,” Boudin said.


About The Author

S. Priana Aquino is a rising Senior at the University of San Francisco, majoring in Business with minors in Legal Studies and Public Service & Community Engagement. Upon graduation, she hopes to attend law school and continue her work in uplifting and advocating for communities of color.

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