Half of people released from jail before trial accused of new crime while free in San Francisco: study

Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – A new study reveals half of the people charged with crimes in San Francisco and released from jail before trial were accused of committing a new crime while they were free in recent years.

The study done by California Policy Lab, based at UC Berkeley and UCLA, evaluates 9,000 people from 2016 to 2019.

In light of this new study, San Francisco Supervisor Catherine Stefani introduced new legislation at today’s board meeting.

Through this legislation, she hopes to require more extensive reporting of court appearances and reoffense rates.

More than half of people charged with crimes and released from jail before their trials in San Francisco were accused of committing a new crime while free and a similar share failed to appear in court in recent years, according to this new study done by California Policy Lab based at UC Berkeley and UCLA.

Additionally, 1 in 6 defendants allegedly went on to commit a new violent offense, according to the study’s findings from May 2016 to December 2019.

In Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Catherine Stefani referenced the study while introducing new legislation.

“This study also validates the experiences of people in San Francisco who are extremely concerned about crime and are constantly told there’s nothing to worry about. 55% of those on pretrial release reoffend before trial. More troubling, individuals with the most serious and violent offenses reoffend 74% of the time,” Supervisor Stefani said.

The study was done to validate the public safety assessment or PSA pre-trial tool in San Francisco that’s used to make recommendations to judges on whether or not to release individuals prior to trial. 

The author of the report, Johanna Lacoe, explains another component of the study.

“SB 36 specifically asks that tools be validated and evaluated for any instances of bias and so that’s another piece of the study and we do find some evidence of bias in how the tools are performing right now in San Francisco. It seems to be similar to how the tool’s performing in other places,” Lacoe said.

While Lacoe agrees the bias needs to be addressed, she says the study concluded that the tool was a “fair to good” predictor of flight and repeat offenses. 

Supervisor Stefani accused some judges in the city of ignoring this tool and releasing individuals anyway. 

Stefani’s now pushing for more extensive reporting of court appearances and reoffense rates.

“Today I’m calling on the city attorney’s office to draft legislation that would 1) require pre-trial to report pre-trial safety and appearance rates for the entire duration of the pre-trial release period, including breakdowns by PSA score and release type and to include new out-of-town offenses. Require reports every time an individual even when the PSA which is don’t by pre-trial recommends that the judge not release an individual and then a report on what happens as a result of that release,” Supervisor Stefani said.

We know San Francisco crime and its D.A. have made national headlines lately to be clear this study was done before Chesa Boudin took office.

Additionally, the study author says judges followed recommendations in about 70% of the cases in the report.

Also, the data doesn’t include many defendants with low-level crimes who just receive a citation.

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