By David M. Greenwald
San Francisco, CA – Appointed SF DA Brooke Jenkins continues to double down on a war on drugs pose as her office announced on Thursday that it will seek pre-trial detention for alleged fentanyl dealers who pose extreme public safety threats.
The office announced it has “filed motions for pre-trial detention in seven cases where release would jeopardize public safety.”
In yet another escalation in the rhetoric in the war on drugs, Jenkin’s office also announced it is “seeking to admonish defendants arraigned for felony narcotics activity involving fentanyl, advising that if a death is attributed to their alleged sale, the defendant may later be charged with murder.
“Moving to hold drug dealers accountable for murder is in lockstep with other prosecutors throughout the state who are stepping up to protect their communities,” the DA’s office stated.
“The lethality of fentanyl presents new and unprecedented risks to our community, and we must do everything in our power to hold drug dealers accountable to help save lives,” said District Attorney Brooke Jenkins. “I am committed to seeking relief for communities ravaged by open air drug markets and holding repeat offenders accountable.”
She added, “Where our individualized review reveals an extreme public safety threat to San Franciscans, I have authorized my office to use every legal means to seek detention. We are hopeful our partners at the courts will respond favorably to our arguments as they acknowledge the level of death and misery on our streets is unacceptable. We have to send a strong message in the community and in the courtroom that we will not stand by and allow dealers to kill innocent people and those suffering from addiction.”
Elected Public Defender Mano Raju pushed back on Twitter, calling the announcement, “efforts to detain & threaten pple facing drug charges w/murder charges are straight out of the War on Drugs playbook.”
Raju stated in a tweet, “We need evidence-based policies, not more of the same old carceral responses that have led us to the current record high in overdoses.”
“Drug policy experts and community-based treatment providers agree that such prosecutions are harmful and actually could lead to more overdoses. That’s why many policymakers have rejected such draconian tactics, incl. recent Republican-led failed state legislative efforts,” Raju continued.
Fair and Just Prosecution report that homicide prosecutions for drug offenses “do not alleviate the risk of fatal overdoses” and “are ineffective as a deterrent to drug use, drug sales, and overdose deaths.”
Meanwhile, Drug Police Alliance find, “Proven strategies are available to reduce the harms associated with drug misuse. … Each of these strategies has evidence to support its effectiveness. Drug-induced homicide laws have none.”
“More incarceration is not the answer and will only waste resources that would be better spent on treatment, job training, housing, & education,” Raju continued. “As the shameful War on Drugs showed us, we cannot arrest, prosecute, & cage our way out of a public health crisis.”
The DA’s office in the meantime, says it is “seeking detention in cases where defendants pose clear threats to public safety given the lethality of the vast quantities of fentanyl they are accused of possessing, the repeated possession for sale of suspected narcotics, or being armed while possessing fentanyl for sale purposes.”
They cite, Drug Enforcement Administration, who claim that “two milligrams of fentanyl may be lethal.”
“Prosecutors are arguing in these cases that no less restrictive form of release can adequately protect the public in light of the ongoing overdose crisis has killed hundreds of San Franciscans since the beginning of the pandemic,” the DA’s office said.
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner reports that “391 lives have been lost this year alone due to accidental drug overdoses with 70% attributed to fentanyl.”
The DA’s office stated, “These public safety arguments are in marked contrast with the previous administration that did not earn a single felony conviction for fentanyl dealers in all of 2021.”
“The District Attorney’s policy shift is imperative to saving lives and restoring public safety and accountability,” they added.
San Francisco Chronicle reporting on the impact of the opiate and fentanyl crisis on our streets has shown that approximately 40% of overdose deaths in 2020 and 2021 happened in the Tenderloin and South of Market neighborhoods, with many outside, on our streets and sidewalks, the DA cited.
They added, “Reporting from the San Francisco Chronicle also shows that San Francisco has the highest death rate from fentanyl overdoes in California and nationally is second to Harris County, Texas (population 4.86 million people) for overdose deaths and second to Philadelphia (population 1.58 million people) in fentanyl related deaths.”
Since taking office and announcing the new drug policies to hold alleged dealers accountable in August, the District Attorney’s Office has filed felony narcotics-related charges against 171 individuals, seven of which included a motion to detain. Two detention motions were temporarily granted but ultimately denied by the court.