Aug. 8, 2023
Media Contact: PubDef-Mediarelations@sfgov.org | Jessie Seyfer, public relations officer | (415) 851-2212
SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco Public Defender’s Office is condemning SF Supervisor Matt Dorsey’s suggestion to re-allocate $18.9 million in city funds earmarked for Wellness Hubs to jail-based services for individuals arrested in sweeps for public intoxication. Elected Public Defender Mano Raju issues the following statement:
“The city’s latest program of arresting and detaining individuals for public drug intoxication has been an utter failure by all accounts, and calling for increased funding of this cruel program defies all logic. These sweeps ignore evidence-based solutions to our city’s public health crisis and have not been successful in connecting people who have been arrested to treatment.
The coordinated law enforcement sweeps have arrested and detained 191 individuals since late May. Many of these individuals are detained for a day or less, and are forced to suffer from withdrawal in a cage and often in lockdown conditions. It is not surprising that many do not accept treatment, if any are offered, in these deplorable conditions and in this state of mind. Even if they were to receive treatment, studies have shown that forced treatment can have negative effects. These individuals are then released back to the streets without supportive housing, where they are at a greater risk of overdose.
These sweeps are politically motivated, War-on-Drugs tactics, and amount to state-sponsored harassment of vulnerable individuals. These detentions are more concerned with sweeping people struggling with substance use disorder temporarily out of sight than with helping them get well. Drug policy experts and decades of research have demonstrated that drug prosecutions are ineffective and harmful. Over the last year, the overdose crisis has only worsened, and these renewed arrests for public intoxication are only putting people struggling with substance use disorder more at risk.
The last 50 years of the War on Drugs have targeted and criminalized the poor and communities of color. This law enforcement approach has fueled mass incarceration and drained public resources away from evidence-based public health solutions. It has squandered one trillion dollars nationally and millions in San Francisco. The millions of dollars the city is pouring into the ineffective and harmful policing and prosecution of drug-related crimes would have a better return on investment if they were being used on Wellness Hubs, treatment on demand, overdose prevention centers, housing, and employment training. If the city is serious about reducing overdoses and saving lives, our resources should be invested in evidence-based public health solutions, and not in causing more harm and suffering to vulnerable communities.”