Hey Ben,

I do think you make a compelling case. Even if I’m not in San Francisco currently I hope you don’t mind me weighing in. I’m coming to this obviously from a heavily pro-reform perspective, but also as someone who has experienced petty crime in SF (car break-in, robbery.) I’m empathetic to the feeling of not feeling safe on those city streets. So, I’ve been following the whole Chesa Boudin saga with a lot of interest.

Just a few things that popped into my head reading your argument:

  1. Yes, justice requires a balance. But vast imbalances exist in our criminal legal system. Prosecutorial discretion does a lot of harm — leading to the trial penalty and outsized sentences, forced pleas — and needs to be checked. Meanwhile, public defenders are perpetually underpaid and overworked to the point that most simply can’t provide decent representation to their clients. Is electing someone like Boudin the right way to correct this imbalance? Maybe not. But I think it’s unfortunately all too rare to have humans who appreciate an incarcerated person’s humanity in that role. Partly, I’m sure, because of what you see in the job. But far too few prosecutors/judges in this country appear to have a meaningful understanding of what it means to throw human beings in a cage (including the ripple effects on innocent families and entire communities.) Ironically, maybe outrage over situations like this is what we need for people to realize prosecutorial discretion is a problem.
  2. I am puzzled as to why some of these crimes aren’t being prosecuted at all, and would be interested in learning more. I do think there’s evidence that the threat of guaranteed punishment deters crime, even if the length of punishment does not (which is why our reliance on mandatory minimums, life without parole, etc is unnecessary and tragic.)
  3. I wonder what role the police play in encouraging or discouraging people to pursue certain cases based on their impression of Boudin, if any.
  4. I also wonder how much of the increase in theft, etc. is pandemic-related from increasing income inequality, how much of it is “Boudin won’t care,” or both. Would be interesting to hear directly from the people who committed these crimes.

We’ve had a handful of recently elected progressive prosectors in Virginia who have been doing really great things in the job. I think it will be interesting to compare the political discussions/outcomes from these elections as time goes on. Each city is truly unique (income inequality is less blatant here, street drug activity is more contained to certain areas, and we have people angry at Parisa in Arlington for her refusal to prosecute marijuana possession, not auto theft. And SF is a place where you “feel” inequality and crime much more acutely.)

Anyway, just some questions on my mind from an outside perspective.

🏛 3rd Generation Washingtonian ⚖️ Advocate for Criminal Justice Reform 🎙 Developing a podcast on incarcerated love: