Almost a year ago, San Francisco voters ousted their liberal district attorney, Chesa Boudin, in a recall election, as public frustration was growing over property crime and the squalor on city streets. There was no compelling evidence that Boudin’s policies had made crime worse. Yet voters rejected his progressive message of taking a lenient approach. Boudin steps into a new role this week, as the founding executive director of the new Criminal Law and Justice Center at the U.C. Berkeley School of Law. The job involves teaching, researching the effects of changes in criminal justice laws in California and advocating new laws, reports the New York Times. “It’s a job that’s going to allow me to draw on the lived experience I had visiting my parents in prison for a combined 63 years, and the practical professional experience I had both as a public defender and elected district attorney in San Francisco,” Boudin said. His parents, members of a radical left-wing group, went to prison for their roles in a botched robbery that left three men dead.
Boudin, 42, reflected on his time in office and the struggle in San Francisco over public safety. Debates around crime, the fentanyl epidemic and homelessness have become more contentious since he left office. City leaders have promised more aggressive enforcement; one proposal would exclude undocumented immigrants with fentanyl distribution convictions from protection under the city’s sanctuary policy, making it easier to deport them. “I absolutely do not agree with scapegoating or attacking immigrants for what are clearly deep-rooted structural inequities and a public health crisis,” Boudin said. “It has never worked, and it’s often been a red flag for fascism. Scapegoating immigrants is not who we are in San Francisco, and it will not make us safer.” On the fatal shooting of Banko Brown by a drugstore security guard last month, Boudin had sharp words for his successor, Brooke Jenkins, who declined to file charges. Her handling of the case sparked protests, especially over her statements that the case appeared to be one of self-defense. “Any experienced prosecutor knows, and Jenkins should have known perfectly well, that you don’t come out while a case is still under investigation ... and make the defense’s case for them,” he said.