Nearly a year after San Francisco voters ousted then-District Attorney Chesa Boudin from office, the progressive former prosecutor is starting a new job as the founding executive director of UC Berkeley Law’s new Criminal Law & Justice Center.
Boudin, whose term was cut short last June by a recall campaign that capitalized on fears of rising lawlessness in the city, will run what’s dubbed a "research and advocacy hub" focusing on criminal legal reform, according to a statement from Berkeley Law.
“A lifetime of visiting my biological parents in prison and my work as a public defender and district attorney have made clear that our system fails to keep communities safe and fails to treat them equitably,” Boudin said in the statement.
Boudin’s parents were part of the radical militant group the Weather Underground and were imprisoned when he was just a baby for their part in a botched robbery that left three dead, including two police officers. His mother, Kathy, who became a prison reform advocate, died last year after a long battle with cancer.
As San Francisco’s district attorney, Boudin expanded programs that served as alternatives to jail time, often drawing criticism that he was more worried about criminal offenders than victims. His recall was widely viewed as a rebuke of a progressive approach to criminal justice.
“Voters weren’t asked to choose between criminal justice reform and something else,” Boudin told a crowd of his supporters on the night he was voted out. “They were given an opportunity to voice their outrage and their frustration, and they took that opportunity.”
Mayor London Breed appointed Brooke Jenkins, who had a prominent and lucrative role in the recall campaign, to finish out Boudin's term. In November, voters elected Jenkins to the role of district attorney.
At Berkeley Law’s Criminal Law & Justice Center, Boudin will lead projects that examine how structural inequities related to poverty and racism shape the criminal justice system.
“Chesa was chosen after a national search and has substantial experience across the criminal justice system,” said the law school’s dean, Erwin Chemerinsky. “He has thought deeply about the system, and I cannot think of anyone better to create and direct this important center.”
Heather Grossmann can be reached at email@example.com