Posted by Curt on 20 September, 2022 at 4:03 pm. 1 comment.


by Leighton Woodhouse

I don’t want to dwell too much in this Substack on the horror show that is the Bay Area open drug scene, since presumably most of you live nowhere near here, so why should this be your concern? Then again, a lot of what’s happening in the Tenderloin may well end up in your backyard too if it isn’t there already — it’s well underway in New York — so whatever interest this subject may hold for non-locals isn’t entirely voyeuristic.
Anyway, following on my last post, I do think it’s worth mentioning something I came across that bears out its implications even further.
This is a press release from the San Francisco Public Defender’s office. I hadn’t noticed it last week, when I was writing about the Public Defender’s de facto collusion with the Sinaloa cartel to disrupt drug enforcement efforts by the San Francisco Police Department and the District Attorney, because it was buried in unread emails in my inbox. It vividly demonstrates the case I was making.
The press release brags about the City Attorney’s recent decision to abandon the effort to enforce stay-away orders for people charged with drug dealing in the Tenderloin (the Public Defender’s clients, that is).
Two years ago, the prior City Attorney asked a judge to impose injunctions on 28 drug dealers. Those injunctions would have banned the dealers from the Tenderloin open air drug market and anywhere else in San Francisco where the defendants had sold drugs.
Notice I didn’t say “alleged” drug dealers: of the four defendants they chose to make the face of their challenge to the motion, the Public Defender’s attorneys don’t dispute that any of them were caught multiple times selling drugs. (The Public Defender does note that none of the four defendants had been convicted of drug dealingbut these arrests took place during Chesa Boudin’s tenure, and Boudin’s approach to suspects charged with drug dealing was to routinely plea them out on lesser things like misdemeanor loitering or “accessory after the fact.” So a lack of convictions is neither here nor there.)
The ban included several exceptions. The dealers would have been allowed to take public transportation through the Tenderloin as long as they didn’t get off the bus or the BART train inside of the district. They would have been allowed to make court appearances inside the designated boundaries. And they would have been able to request advance permission from the court to be in the neighborhood for other specified reasons during specified times, as well. Apart from that, they weren’t allowed in the Tenderloin.
Part of the idea behind stay-away orders is to stop people from selling drugs without throwing them in jail. It’s a commonsense, non-carceral approach to combating the scourge of addiction. Even though the cartel-backed drug dealers in the Tenderloin are uniformly undocumented immigrants, under stay-away orders they would be free to live their lives: get normal jobs, raise their kids and send money to their relatives back in Honduras. The only thing they couldn’t do is enter one single neighborhood in San Francisco (which seems particularly non-onerous considering they all live in Oakland).
You would think advocates of decarceration would embrace this kind of soft approach to drug enforcement. But to the Public Defender’s office, just preventing drug dealers from working their corners is way over the line. Mano Raju, the elected Public Defender, had this to say about the ban:

“These civil injunctions would have criminalized Latinx community members for merely being present in the Tenderloin neighborhood. They were antithetical to the values of equality and freedom that San Franciscans hold.”

So there you go. Stay-away orders for known drug dealers are racist.
Raju went on to call the City Attorney’s efforts part of the “criminalization and incarceration of low-income communities of color.” A deputy public defender described it as “targeting and profiling communities of color for exclusion from public spaces.” The press release decries “this harrowing journey” by “the vulnerable individuals named in the lawsuits.” (I requested an interview with Raju, but so far, it’s been crickets.)
Gina McDonald is a former street addict whose daughter also fell into hardcore addiction in the Tenderloin. One of the four defendants represented by the Public Defender — one of the “vulnerable individuals” — was her daughter’s dealer. Gina describes him this way:

“This is a dealer who her dad had to go pay off due to threats on her safety. He’s been arrested at least three times in San Francisco; he was given diversion to NA meetings. He was represented by ACLU NorCal in order to be able to stay in the Tenderloin for ‘services,’ while at the same time having a warrant for violent crimes in another county. In the meantime, he walks out of court while we have to jump through hoops to get her accessed for treatment.”

“The system,” Gina said, “is so broken.”
This is what we’ve been told by the Public Defender and the former DA about the principles upon which they run that system:

  • In San Francisco, under the prior DA, imprisoning drug dealers was ipso facto inhumane and counterproductive.
  • But the non-carceral alternative of a stay-away order, according to the Public Defender, is also racist and criminalizing.
  • Charging drug dealers with drug dealing was likewise verboten under Boudin, because that could trigger a deportation charge and deny the dealers a path to citizenship.
  • In fact, according to the Public Defender, even arresting drug dealers is racist.

Under these “San Francisco values,” what, exactly, is left for the city to do about the addiction crisis? San Francisco already has over a billion dollars to spend on services for street addicts; lack of resources is clearly not the problem. If de-criminalization were the solution, then things would have gotten better over the last two years, not visibly more terrifying.

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