San Francisco voters will decide on Tuesday whether to recall Dist. Atti. Chesa Boudin, who was elected in 2019 on a criminal justice reform platform but has faced backlash over crime and homelessness.
What is the recall about?
Boudin’s election was hailed as a major development for the criminal justice reform movement. He refused to seek the death penalty or try juveniles as adults, drastically reduced the use of sentencing enhancements, and sought to push those charged with drug-fueled low-level crimes toward treatment instead of a prison cell.
Boudin’s supporters say he has taken significant steps to reduce mass incarceration and hold police accountable. A San Francisco police officer was tried this year for excessive force, for the first time in the city’s history.
Recall supporters say Boudin’s policies made San Francisco less safe. They ran ads highlighting shocking videos of armed robberies of high-end retailers in Union Square and drug dealing in the Tenderloin neighborhood.
Overall, property crime and violent crime both fell by double digit percentages during Boudin’s first two years in office, according to city data. But certain types of crime have exploded over the same period: burglaries are up 47%, motor vehicle thefts are up 36% and, reflecting a national trend, homicides have increased since 2019 – although the city had its fewest murders in more than half a century that year.
Who is Chesa Boudin?
Boudin is a Yale-educated Rhodes Scholar who once worked as a translator for Venezuelan socialist President Hugo Chávez.
His parents were members of the radical left-wing group Weather Underground. They went to prison when Boudin was a child for their roles in a 1981 New York City robbery that left three people dead, including two police officers. (His mother, Kathy Boudin, was granted parole in 2003 and died of cancer last month. His father, David Gilbert, was granted parole last year.)
What is the big picture?
California has been a leader in efforts to reform the criminal justice system, including ending cash bail for some defendants and working to revise sentencing rules.
Supporters of criminal justice reform have pushed to elect progressive, reform-minded district attorneys, viewing the office as a weak link in efforts to cultivate a more equal justice system and hold police and officials accountable.
Progressive prosecutors, even those elected by a large majority, have come under public pressure. Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón is facing his second recall attempt in two years.
Reading other publications:
Why might California recall its most progressive prosecutor?
What the national media may be wrong about the recall
(San Francisco Chronicle)
In San Francisco, Democrats are at war on crime
(New York Times)
The limits of San Francisco liberalism?
(New York magazine)
The difficult battle of Boudin
The debate on the protection of victims
(San Francisco Chronicle)
Video: Breaking Down Problems
(NBC Bay Area)
Los Angeles Times