In another announcement touting a change of course from her predecessor, ousted District Attorney Chesa Boudin, San Francisco’s interim top prosecutor Brooke Jenkins has created a new policy governing bail and pretrial release.
The new guidelines gives prosecutors the ability to request bail in some less serious cases and detention motions will continue to be requested for defendants charged with more serious crimes if other efforts have failed.
Under the new policy, a prosecutor can request pretrial lockup if there is a “substantial likelihood” the defendant would skip a court date or harm a victim or the broader public.
Jenkins cast the policy as a balance between protecting the public and treating defendants fairly.
“Cash bail unfairly penalizes those with less financial means and disproportionately affects defendants of color,” she said in a prepared statement Thursday. “Protecting victims and ensuring public safety are my top priorities. We will not shy away from holding offenders accountable, but we will not perpetuate further injustice and inequities.”
Under Boudin, the policy on pretrial release and bail was more narrow, only allowing detention in cases where there was an imminent threat to the public. In such cases, prosecutors had to file a detention motion arguing why they wanted cash bail, although the decision was ultimately up to a judge.
The old policy allowed detention only in “felony cases involving allegations of violence, sexual assault, threats of violence, repeated criminal behavior risking the safety of the public, failures to follow the rules of monitored release or failure to appear.”
The new policy was criticized by San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju, who in a prepared statement called it regressive and unfairly punishing to poor people.
“Jenkins’ characterization of this new policy as limited is disingenuous,” he wrote, “as the stated policy is both broad and vague.”
Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at [email protected]