SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) — San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju said the city’s new District Attorney has launched a destructive “war on drugs” that cruelly targets drug users.
District Attorney Brooke Jenkins’ office recently filed charges against more than a dozen people solely for possessing drug paraphernalia, according to the Public Defender’s Office.
Public Defender Raju said Tuesday, “I denounce these charging decisions by District Attorney Jenkins. San Francisco must not regress to the inhumane, cruel, and costly war on drugs.”
“We cannot arrest, prosecute, and cage our way out of a public health crisis,” Raju said. “This is not who we are. In San Francisco, we are a compassionate community, and one that values evidence-based, effective responses to the problems our city faces. We must do better than a return to the destructive and devastating war on drugs.”
“Let’s remember that the war on drugs, which began under Richard Nixon in the 1970s, did nothing to reduce drug use or sales. Nor was that its intended purpose. Rather, the drug war was designed as an attack on the poor and people of color that fueled criminalization and mass incarceration of vulnerable communities for decades. At that, it was enormously successful and harmful,” Raju said.
Jenkins told KRON4 on Tuesday that she has made zero policy changes for how people charged with drug possession are prosecuted in court. The District Attorney’s Office is proactively adding the cases pointed out by Raju to the court’s calendar to drop the charges.
Jenkins told KRON4, “I have made no policy changes in regards to charging for simple drug possession and paraphernalia. My office will immediately withdraw these charges as they were done out of accordance with our office’s policy. I am focused on holding serious drug dealers, particularly those dealing fentanyl, accountable and not targeting and incarcerating those suffering from addiction. We will take the appropriate steps internally to ensure that our staff is following our policy.”
Last week, Jenkins walked through drug-plagued streets of the Tenderloin to meet with residents, hear their public safety concerns, and see the neighborhood’s problems first-hand. Jenkins vowed to shut the city’s open-air drug markets down and prosecute drug dealers who are flooding streets with deadly supplies of fentanyl.
“We cannot allow our residents to die on the street of overdose … without holding those who sell fentanyl accountable. We had 45 overdose deaths in May — 33 of which were from fentanyl,” she said.
“I told the public that on day one I will begin enforcing drug crime law. I mean what I say and I am focused on delivering on my promise to hold serious and repeat offenders accountable for wreaking havoc in our communities like the Tenderloin,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins was chosen by Mayor London Breed as the city’s new top prosecutor after voters recalled the former district attorney, Chesa Boudin, in June. Jenkins said she plans to review all pending plea deals offered during Boudin’s tenure to people charged with drug offenses.
Last year, nearly 500 people died from fentanyl overdoses in the city. Jenkins told reporters that cracking down on drug dealers will help people struggling with addiction.
“I’m also committed to doing what we can to ensure that those who are struggling with addiction are able to enter into recovery, and are able to engage in recovery, without having to walk out of the front door of where they live, and seeing drug dealers again,” she said.
Instead of spending money on locking up drug users, Raju said the city should invest in providing more healthcare, housing, jobs, and education. Community members can be connected to services without being subjected to a criminal record that will make it difficult for them to get a job or housing in the future, he said.