An Uncertain Future
Eight months in as a first time CEO, and the most challenging aspect of my role is our fight for survival. In some ways it mirrors the vulnerability of the people we serve as they enter into what can be a harsh and unsympathetic system. Based on 2015 statistics, about ⅓ of the adult working population have a rap sheet, and there as many people with criminal backgrounds as there are with four-year college degrees. That could be any of us, and that moment of being arrested is horrifying and hopeless, and only exacerbated by not having anyone on your side.
SF Pretrial screens about 6,500 people a year as they are booked into County Jail. Although we have been embedded in the Courts and pretrial process for over 43 years, and are sometimes mistaken as a government agency; we are deeply rooted in the community and needs of our clients. Equally embedded is our philosophy of dignity, respect, compassion and accountability.
The Unfortunate Reality
The numbers are grim. Two or more days of pretrial incarceration results in a significantly higher likelihood of losing jobs, housing or child custody. People who remain in jail pretrial are convicted at higher rates, sentenced to longer periods of time and are more likely to be re-arrested. Families who pay bail are often forced into debt and may lose their vehicles and/or homes. Innocent until proven guilty is debatable when considering those outcomes, especially for people of color.
Expertise honed through decades of practice makes a difference. We make recommendations to Judges about a person’s likelihood to appear for Court and their threat to public safety. It is an enormous responsibility, and our outcomes speak for themselves. Approximately 87% of our clients show up for Court and 90% do not commit additional crimes. We provide objective and factual data so our partners make informed decisions that prioritize success and safety.
A Real Solution
Our staff personalize the process by making clients feel valued. We provide support and hope as clients are greeted upon release from lock-up, and heat up meals for our homeless and hungry clients when they arrive at the office. Warm jackets and court clothes are also on hand. Operating 365 days a year can take its toll, but who wants to spend Thanksgiving or New Year’s Day in jail? Thanks to the diligent work of our team and the support of our criminal justice partners, we do our best to make sure it only happens when absolutely necessary.
The fight for our survival? As a result of SB 10 and state budget legislation, the City & County of San Francisco is deciding between retaining the current structure or eliminating our agency and moving pretrial services into law enforcement. The Mayor’s Office convened a meeting today to discuss the topic, but the outcome is still uncertain. The Mayor and her staff will determine our fate over the next few days. Your voice could be the difference, so please contact me below if you want to support SF Pretrial.