San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins is cracking down on fentanyl dealers with a set of new pre-trial policies that could increase incarceration and sentencing.
Jenkins recently withdrew plea deals for 30 fentanyl cases and toughened penalties for those arrested with at least 5 grams of the illegal opioid.
Under the new policy, those caught with drugs will no longer be diverted to San Francisco’s community courts and dealers who are arrested within 1,000 feet of a school will be given more severe sentences. Bail may also be eliminated in certain “extreme” cases of fentanyl dealing. According to Jenkins, the previous administration would let dealers post bail even after being arrested with as much as 500 grams of the substance.
The DA’s office said that those whose plea deals were revoked could potentially face jail time as a result of felony charges.
Jenkins’ new policies are a reversal of those of her predecessor, Chesa Boudin, who was criticized by residents as being too progressive and soft on crime.
Indeed, San Francisco Superior Court data showed that under Boudin’s leadership, not a single fentanyl dealing conviction was obtained throughout the entire year of 2021 — a year where 640 people in the city died from overdoses related to the drug.
Now, Jenkins is promising to restore order to the city.
“We have to send a strong message that if people choose to sell drugs in our city, that they will be held accountable,” Jenkins said.
According to Jenkins’ office, one of the more “egregious” cases where a plea deal was revoked involves a defendant with six open cases for dealing fentanyl in the Tenderloin neighborhood. The defendant was offered a deal to plead guilty to just one misdemeanor to settle the six cases.
A handful of other cases offered similar plea deals.
“No one deserves to live in the conditions that we experience every day in the Tenderloin,” a Tenderloin resident named Greggory told reporters. “I am hopeful that District Attorney Jenkins’ new approach will send a clear message that drug dealers will face consequences for the disruption and deaths they are causing.”
San Francisco public defender Mano Raju criticized Jenkins’ moves as outdated and ineffective. “If District Attorney Jenkins truly wants to address the issues facing our city, she should not be relying on outdated and politically expedient soundbites about harsher enforcement,” he said in a statement. “Fifty years of evidence from the war on drugs have shown that these punitive practices have not prevented recidivism nor improved community health and safety.”