San Francisco DA clarifies position on prosecuting low-level crimes

San Francisco's new district attorney, Brooke Jenkins, is clarifying the position of her office on prosecuting low-level crimes.

She said "no policies are changing" and that her prosecutors are going after "serious drug dealers." 

That comes after Jenkins recently dropped drug paraphernalia charges against at least 17 people.

Public defenders have criticized Jenkins, fearing a return to an expensive "War on Drugs," which targeted the poor and minorities.

In a statement on Wednesday, San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju denounced Jenkins' attempt to bring back the "regressive war on drugs." He said in those cases, the sole charge is paraphernalia possession, including that of a pipe. 

"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," Raju said. "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 the War on Drugs strategy is misguided and will lead to trial backlogs. 

"We cannot arrest, prosecute, and cage our way out of a public health crisis," he said.

Meanwhile, some city and community leaders want Jenkins to keep a criminal justice reform program that began with her predecessor, Chesa Boudin.

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The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to call on Jenkins to preserve the independent Innocence Commission. 

The commission recently helped exonerate a man who was convicted and imprisoned for more than 30 years for a murder he did not commit.