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October 5, 2007

SF Mayor Gavin Newsom: "End this war on drugs."

Thanks to TalkLeft, I see from this news report that San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom yesterday came out swinging with potent advocacy against the "war on drugs."  Among other strong statements, Newsom said "shame on my party, the democratic party, because they don't have the courage" to do anything about harms from the drug war.   Here's a bit more:

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom proclaimed the nation's war on drugs a total failure and insisted the crime rate would go down if the government spent money on treatment as opposed to jailing people with drug problems.

"If you want to get serious, if you want to reduce crime by 70% in this country overnight, end this war on drugs," he told reporters at City Hall on Thursday. "You want to get serious, seriously serious about crime and violence end this war on drugs."  The mayor maintained local jails are overcrowded with people incarcerated for drug offenses, taking up room that could be used to hold more violent criminal offenders.  He said violent criminals with lengthy felony records are being turned loose, too often.

Seems like more proof to me that we are getting ever closer to a tipping point on tough-on-crime attitudes and undue emphasis on incarceration as the "solution" to every perceived problem.

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October 5, 2007 at 04:45 PM | Permalink

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"The mayor maintained local jails are overcrowded with people incarcerated for drug offenses, taking up room that could be used to hold more violent criminal offenders. He said violent criminals with lengthy felony records are being turned loose, too often."

While Mr. Newsom may have something to say about crime policy and drug policy, it is simply ridiculous to say that HIS local jails are overcrowded with drug offenders. For starters, Proposition 36 [Penal Code section 1210.1] does not permit jail time for the vast, vast, majority of drug offenders - those who possess and use drugs. Second, the prosecution policies of District Attorney Kamala Harris and her predecessor Terence Hallinan are possibly the least aggressive in the Bay Area counties when it comes to drug offenders and jail. It is well known amoung drug dealers that selling in San Francisco, at most and only if you get caught, will result in a night in jail only to be given a reduced charge of possession if prosecuted at all. Many dealers refuse to sell anywhere else, even though they do not live in the city/county of San Francisco. A local TV station did a spot on this very issue when Hallinan was still the DA. Admittedly Harris is not nearly as bad as he was. See People v. Posey (2004) 32 Cal.4th 192 for an all too common example. Not only did the defendant refuse to go to Marin County to deliver the drugs, but SF refused to prosecute an easily provable case.

While I agree violent criminals in SF are being released too early to often, it is not drug offenders crowding them out. It is the fact that the San Francisco DA's Office has been the underfunded (as recently as the late 1990s the lawyers did not have their own computers), red headed step child of law enforcement. It is also the legacy of Terence Hallinan who quite frankly wasn't all that interested in running a professional, competent, career attorney law office. Kamala Harris is picking up the pieces while campaigning for her next office.

Posted by: David | Oct 6, 2007 11:43:23 AM

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