November 5, 2020

San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju’s Statement on Election’s Implications for Criminal Justice Reform in California

“2020 has been a year of divisive politics and a national reckoning with racism, police brutality, and systemic injustice. However, this week there was consensus across California: voters made clear their desire to continue on a path of meaningful criminal justice reform.  

Across the state, people voted for measures that will increase law enforcement accountability, and decrease reliance on incarceration as a public safety tool. While there are ballots left to count, all of these propositions are headed for victory. Proposition 17 will restore voting rights to thousands of Californians who are currently on parole. In San Francisco, voters have largely supported Proposition D to establish formal oversight of our Sheriff’s department and the way in which they operate our jail system, as well as Proposition E to remove an outdated mandatory staffing minimum of police officers and send the SFPD through the annual budget process that all city departments must go through to justify and secure staffing. I am also encouraged to see that Sonoma County supported Proposition P to establish Sheriff oversight there and that Measure J was successful in Los Angeles, which is a vote for investing in community improvements and alternatives to incarceration.

Californians appear to have strongly rejected Proposition 20, which would have rolled back decades of reform efforts that my office and voters have supported to end mass incarceration in our state. Proposition 25 is also likely to fail, striking down the previously passed bail reform bill SB 10. While it would have ended the inherently unfair cash bail system, Proposition 25 would have replaced cash bail with a system requiring the use of risk assessment tools in making decisions to release or detain people in jail. Risk assessment tools have been shown to discriminate against communities of color, immigrants, and people from low-income neighborhoods.

My office has long fought for bail reform in the courts, which has resulted in the Humphrey case currently pending review by the California Supreme Court. If the case is upheld, it will abolish the practice of using high money bail to detain poor people. The ruling makes clear that judges must consider non-monetary alternatives to money bail when making pretrial release decisions.

Much work is left to be done. I will continue to listen to the needs of the communities my office serves and work with lawmakers and stakeholders as we focus on repairing and reimagining the justice system and redefining public safety.”

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