Aug 4, 2022 - Politics

New district attorney unveils harsher policies for drug dealers

Foil with fentanyl
Foil containing fentanyl. Photo: Jessica Christian/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

San Francisco's District Attorney Brooke Jenkins announced a series of policy updates Wednesday in an effort to cut down on citywide drug sales.

What's happening: The newly appointed chief prosecutor, an outspoken critic of former District Attorney Chesa Boudin, said to "hold drug dealers accountable," her office will stop sending dealers caught with more than 5 grams of any drug to the city's community justice courts.

  • Those courts offer "access [to] social services" and the potential to "avoid conviction," the SF Standard writes.
  • Jenkins said that under the "previous administration" dealers arrested with "as much as 500 grams of fentanyl and who had multiple open fentanyl cases" could be referred to community courts.
  • Instead, she said, "defendants holding lethal doses of fentanyl will face felony charges."

Details: The plan also includes keeping fentanyl dealers in "extreme cases" in jail ahead of their trials, as well as potentially harsher sentences for those found dealing drugs within 1,000 feet of schools.

  • As part of Jenkins' announcement, she said she has revoked over 30 open plea deals with fentanyl dealers that her office deemed too lenient.

What they're saying: "The lethality of fentanyl presents a different challenge, and we must immediately change course, so we can save lives and hold people accountable for the havoc they are wreaking in our communities," Jenkins said.

Why it matters: The prevalence of open air drug dealing has ravaged the city. Over 1,500 people have died in San Francisco since 2020 from drug overdoses.

The other side: Not everyone agrees that harsher sentencing for drug dealers will make a difference on San Francisco's streets.

  • "It's just repackaging the war on drugs with happy, progressive language," criminal defense attorney and former San Francisco Police Commissioner John Hamasaki told Axios. "People are upset. People are angry. And that's fair. But this isn't the right answer."
  • Hamasaki instead thinks the city should focus on getting people who live on the streets into housing and putting money toward better drug treatment and mental health options.
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