SF Public Defenders Charge District Attorney Broke State Law in Releasing Juvenile Records

By The Vanguard Staff

SAN FRANCISCO, CA  – The San Francisco Public Defender’s Office charged Monday the  San Francisco District Attorney’s Office broke state law designed to protect the confidentiality of juvenile cases. 

The Public Defender’s Office previously insisted District Attorney Brooke Jenkins’ announced juvenile policy last September 2022 ignores “the data and the history which has shown the ineffective, counterproductive, and dangerous practice of trying youth as adults under any circumstances,” the PD noted Monday.

The news reports that violate the law relate to the Jan. 4 arrest of a 15-year-old, explained the PD, which represents the youth. 

The PD Office argues the DA’s Office, which is prosecuting the minor for an alleged homicide at the Japan Center Mall, “issued a statement to press containing confidential information, and may have leaked documents related to the minor’s juvenile record.

“California Welfare and Institutions Code 827 prohibits the release of information related to juvenile records, and it is a misdemeanor to violate these protections,” charged the PD Office Monday.

The PD Office added the law “reflects a long history of protecting juvenile proceedings and records from disclosure to facilitate the rehabilitative goals of the juvenile system and avoid stigmatizing individuals accused at a young age. 

“Jenkins has previously stated her inhumane policy to transfer certain juvenile cases involving 16- and 17-year-olds to adult court, but she is prohibited by state law from doing so when the individual accused is 15 years old,” maintains the PD.

The PD Office said Monday it will be “exploring all avenues for holding the District Attorney’s Office accountable for violating state law, including a gag order to prohibit prosecutors from making further public comments on this juvenile case or releasing more documents related to the minor.”

Emily Goldman, managing attorney of the PD’s youth defender unit, said last September, “Any movement towards putting children in adult prisons is a step backwards that ignores scientific research and recent criminal justice reforms, is a direct threat to community health and safety, and is harmful to our youth and families. 

“Youth accused of serious crimes often are the victims of trauma, violence, and abuse themselves, and are among those needing the most support and intervention. Recognizing these needs, in recent years, we have seen more resources being directed to the benefit of vulnerable and at-risk young people. 

Goldman added, “There are numerous examples of system-involved youth progressing because of the resources allocated to them in the juvenile court and they are now developing into productive members of society. We have had youth, who could have been charged as adults, instead engage in restorative justice, and we have seen victims who have felt heard and who have told us that the process has helped them heal.

“Youth who have had the opportunity to learn about the harms they have caused and received the services they need are much less likely to recidivate. These practices, and others, are in line with the overall directive of the juvenile court, which is rehabilitation.”

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