TREATMENT NOT INCARCERATION (1/30/07)
The City and County of San Francisco is proud to have a Public Defender in Jeff Adachi who is my good friend and one who is elected in a fair election process and well loved and respected by the majority of constituents in San Francisco. Jeff Adachi is a true San Franciscan.
We also have an elected District Attorney who really came from Alameda County brought here by Willie L. Brown Jr. that consummate politician who once worked hard and helped try to defeat Jeff Adachi by backing his god-daughter Kim Burton the daughter of John Burton. Kamala Harris our present District Attorney has a cozy relationship with former Mayor Willie L. Brown and I mention this because the Mayoral elections are near and the air is ripe with stinking politics.
This City we call San Francisco was named after Saint Francisco Assisi and so when we see and feel the vibes of good men like Jeff Adachi we all feel proud. Especially those of us, in the trenches that work hard to save our youth and often look to the Public Defender for advice, solace, support - many a time in the midst of other crisis that is part of our hectic - dog eat dog world.
Most advocates that work, especially with youth but adults too prefer to treat our youth and adults when they make a mistake by sending them to a diversion program. We do not think incarceration - even though we know that incarceration is a billion dollar business. We see the harm done when we visit San Quentin, Folsom, the many county jails - even the Juvenile Detention Center in San Francisco.
Many a time we are forced to deal with unique circumstances. We know of someone that is a good person but as things happen he or she was in the wrong place at the wrong time - knowing or unknowingly breaking the law. None of us are perfect and few of us can say we have not broken the law. We prefer a diversion program, we prefer treatment.
Apparently, Kamala Harris the wide grinning San Francisco District Attorney once said: "Š I will fight to expand diversion opportunities to save money, prevent future crime, and recover lives that might otherwise be lost in a downward spiral." So, what happened! How does diversion benefit Society? The program provides first time misdemeanor offenders with court alternatives and services such as anger management, parenting classes, domestic violence and substance abuse counseling and education. The program also collects restitution for victims of crime.
Each participant is also required to perform community service. Last year, program participants provided over 15,000 hours in community services. These services benefited agencies all over San Francisco such as Glide Memorial and Saint Anthony's.
Besides helping to ensure that people do not come back into the criminal justice system, Diversion saves money by avoiding the estimated $50,000 in costs if a case proceeds to trail.
How will these changes affect immigrants? Under the new immigration laws, immigrants convicted of certain misdemeanors are subject to deportation. If the diversion criteria are changed, many people who would have been able to participate in diversion will instead have to proceed to jury trial. If they are convicted they may face severe immigration consequences, including deportation.
Why can the District Attorney unilaterally decide what the criteria should be? Under the law the District Attorney has the authority to review the program and must approve the program guidelines. In the past, this has been decided by a committee made up of judges, prosecutors, defenders, and others. However, this year, the District Attorney's proposed changes were not achieved by consensus.
There is talk that State Legislation will be introduce soon to make this decision making and the adjudication process more embracing with the pertinent parties having input and aiming at a more holistic approach favoring diversion and treatment and not incarceration.
The San Francisco Pretrial Diversion Project (SFPDP) provides first time misdemeanor offenders with court proceeding alternatives and services such as anger management, parenting, domestic violence, and substance abuse counseling and education. What is the San Francisco Pretrial Diversion Project? The San Francisco Pretrial Diversion Project (SFPDP) organization was established in 1976 through the joint efforts of a group of socially conscious citizens, the San Francisco Bar Association and the Judges of the Municipal Courts.
The experience has shown that most individuals charged with misdemeanor offense did not benefit perceptibly by jail time. They were convinced that both the goals of crime prevention and rehabilitation would be better served by an alternative program which provided education, rehabilitation and community service work. San Francisco Pretrial Diversion was formed to provide "first time" misdemeanor offenders of non-violent charges an opportunity to have their case dismissed by completing a program.
Who is eligible for diversion? Eligibility criteria have been developed to determine who is eligible for Pretrial Diversion. Generally, those charged with crimes such as petty theft, battery (offensive touching), auto theft and vandalism have been referred to diversion. Certain crimes require a "good cause" finding by a judge, who makes a determination whether the case is appropriate to refer to the program.
What changes is the District Attorney proposing? The District Attorney, Kamala Harris proposal would severely limit both the types and number of cases that would be eligible for diversion, and would require a "good cause" finding on almost every case referred to diversion. It is estimated that twenty five per cent fewer cases would be referred to diversion under the District Attorney new plan.
What reasons has the District Attorney Kamala Harris given for the changes she is proposing? Kamala Harris, has said that she believes the criteria are too lenient and that unsuitable cases are being referred to diversion. Kamala Harris has specifically sought to exclude certain battery type offenses, indecent exposure, and child endangerment. Is the Diversion an effective program? From the year 2003 to the year 2006, of the four hundred and fifty one clients charged with battery or battery on a police officer who have been referred to diversion, ninety four per cent (four hundred and twenty two cases) has had no subsequent convictions after participating in the diversion program.
On many fronts in recent years, advocates have encountered dirty politics making inroads and trying to dilute programs and policies that have worked. We are lucky in San Francisco to have San Franciscans and many of them judges, lawyers, and advocates who care about justice and fair treatment linked to our people that live in San Francisco.
Kamala Harris is not a San Franciscan she is an implant trying to make waves and pushing a hidden agenda known to the world as dirty politics. No one is their right mind - especially those thoroughly involved in the judicial process would prefer incarceration to diversion and treatment.
Good support for the Diversion and Treatment.
Kamala say one thing and does another.
Public Defender Jeff Adachi.
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