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DA Jenkins unveils new policy to steer drug users into treatment

DA Brooke Jenkins speaks to the press at her office in San Francisco, Calif., on Wednesday, August 3, 2022. Jenkins announced a new office policy that would create harsher penalties for drug dealers. | Juliana Yamada/The Standard

San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins on Thursday announced a new policy aimed at steering drug users toward treatment instead of jail. 

From now on, she said, people with five or more misdemeanor citations for public drug use will have their charges bundled and prosecuted as a single case.

The DA’s Office will then send defendants with those combined charges to the Community Justice Center, a court that sends people to treatment for mental health and substance use disorders. 

Until they reach that five-misdemeanor threshold, people cited for simple possession will have their cases discharged, the DA explained.

The idea being, Jenkins said, that someone racking up a handful of citations for public drug use sends “a clear signal that they are in a crisis and need support.”

“Addressing substance use and addiction in our community requires an all-hands-on-deck approach that includes the criminal justice system,” she said in a news release announcing the new policy.

That doesn’t mean letting people off the hook, she added: “We will continue our office’s laser focus on holding drug dealers accountable.”

Jenkins’ policy drew criticism from one of her opponents in the upcoming District Attorney’s race this November, former Police Commissioner John Hamasaki.

In a series of tweets, Hamasaki said that those sent to the Community Justice Center on five or more cases might “wash out” by failing a drug test and return to normal criminal court.

“Treatment for people suffering from drug addiction, that sounds great! This isn't that,” Hamasaki wrote. “What this does is ramps up policing of people struggling with addiction.”

In her announcement, Jenkins also noted that her office ended a policy introduced by her predecessor Chesa Boudin to refer dealers arrested with up to 100 grams of fentanyl to the Community Justice Center. 

Meanwhile, Jenkins said prosecutors will evaluate each felony drug sales charge on a case-by-case basis.

As of Aug. 31, she said her office had filed felony drug sales charges against 125 people and sought detention motions in five of those cases.