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Tuesday Test For San Francisco's Progressive Prosecutor Boudin

San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin declared his 2019 election victory a call by voters for radical change. He promised to do more than lock up criminals, pursuing a progressive agenda to reduce incarceration rates and scrutinize police misconduct. Boudin faces voters again Tuesday, in a recall election backed by business owners unhappy with his performance. Polls indicate his ouster is supported by the majority of residents in a liberal city that has seen a spike in murder, reports the Wall Street Journal. “Crime makes everyone more moderate,” said Albert Chow, a hardware store owner in a neighborhood hard-hit by home and business burglaries. A successful recall of Boudin would mark a significant setback in the progressive prosecutor movement, including district attorneys in Los Angeles County, Manhattan, Cook County, and Philadelphia, where homicides went up during the pandemic and lockdowns. U.S. homicides jumped nearly 30% in 2020 from 2019, the largest single-year increase recorded by the FBI.

Progressive prosecutors have pursued goals like sending nonviolent drug offenders to treatment instead of jail, sparing juveniles from being prosecuted as adults and looking at old cases to free wrongfully convicted people from prison. Worry about crime is at its highest since 2016, found a Gallup Poll in April. Criminologists say there is little evidence that prosecutors’ policies are to blame for increased crime, but voter concerns are resonating during this midterm year, including a backlash against the “defund the police” movement. In the past three weeks, candidates for district attorney with tough-on-crime messages have defeated progressive rivals in at least five elections in North Carolina, Oregon and Arkansas. Groups allied with police unions and largely funded by business leaders have gathered tens of thousands of signatures in Los Angeles, Northern Virginia and Colorado to unseat progressive prosecutors. Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón is a recall target. Gascón, who previously served as San Francisco D.A., will face a recall election if opponents collect the required 566,857 signatures by July 6.


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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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