Wednesday, July 15, 2009 · by lvillegas
San Francisco – Public Defender Jeff Adachi submitted a list of reductions that would be required if his office were forced to cut $1.6 million from its budget, as proposed by Mayor Gavin Newsom. Adachi’s submission was in response to a letter of inquiry from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
Adachi said that he would have to cut at least seven attorneys from his staff and would also have to eliminate at least five staff positions. The cuts would result in the elimination of the Mo’ MAGIC and BMAGIC programs, both of which are staffed by the Public Defender’s Office.
Adachi said that firing attorneys from his staff would actually cost the city $700,000 more a year than what it would save by reducing his staff, since these cases would have to be referred to more expensive private attorneys. Adachi noted that he has already reduced his staff by 10 and that he cannot provide proper representation to the 29,000 people the office is assigned to represent each year. Adachi said that he would have to withdraw from as many as 1,500 cases and that this would cause court delays that could drive up the cost of jailing inmates by up to $5 million.
At a press conference held on steps of the City Hall yesterday, Lt. Mike Slade, San Francisco Police Department, said that it would be a mistake to eliminate the MAGIC programs, which have united over 100 community-based organizations that serve families and youth in San Francisco’s Bayview and Western Addition neighborhoods.
“As a police officer, I have worked with the MAGIC programs, and know that they help kids from getting into trouble,” Lt. Slade said.
MAGIC was formed in order to better coordinate the work of neighborhood-based service providers and to encourage collaborative programming to benefit children, including the 2,100 children represented by the Public Defender’s Office each year.
The office would also lose social workers who ensure that children in the juvenile justice system receive care, treatment and guidance consistent with their best interests, as mandated by the California Rules of Court. This includes creating individualized treatment plans, and integrating mental health, special education and counseling services available through the school district, government agencies and community-based service providers.
Adachi hopes that the Board of Supervisors votes to restore his budget. “It’s the right thing to do because it will ultimately save the city millions. It will also ensure that our justice system is working and that innocent people are not convicted of crimes they did not commit,” Adachi said.