Guest Commentary: SF Public Defender Opposes New Bail Policies Set Forth by DA

SF Public Defender Mano Raju protesting jail conditions in September

By Mano Raju

Even before District Attorney Jenkins issued this policy, we’ve seen her office expand the use of money bail to detain people accused of misdemeanors, and we are concerned that more of our clients will be harmed in light of this announcement.

To be clear, we’re talking about the District Attorney’s Office intentionally setting money bail to lock a poor person in jail where a wealthy person could simply pay the money and be released. By definition, this is not about furthering public safety because we know that jailing a community member destabilizes that person’s life and makes it more likely that they will be charged with another crime later. They may lose their home, their job, their kids; they endure trauma in the jail, and they are stigmatized.

DA Jenkins’s characterization of this new policy as limited is disingenuous as the stated policy is both broad and vague. Already we have a number of misdemeanor attorneys who each have a handful of cases where the prosecutor has sought pre-trial detention.

Most concerning, DA Jenkins’s policy will increase the number of people caged prior to trial. Pre-trial detention is a coercive tactic used to pressure people who can not afford to pay bail to take a plea deal for a crime they did not commit. Increasing pre-trial detention also will exacerbate the backlog of cases where the accused waits in jail in violation of their speedy trial rights. And it will make even worse the human rights crisis happening within our jails —while hundreds of people are waiting days, weeks, or months without sunlight or fresh air; little or no programming; some subjected to conditions of solitary confinement.

I urge District Attorney Jenkins to reconsider her policy on expanding use of money bail to incarcerate indigent community members. Nationally and throughout California, we are moving away from punishing people for being poor and toward ending the use of money bail. Let’s not regress on the progress we have made as a city and county that values equality and fairness.

Mano Raju is the elected Public Defender in San Francisco

About The Author

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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