Senator Leno opened by giving some historical background. Ten years ago, when he started chairing the Public Safety Committee on the Assembly, California was spending 5.3% of its budget on corrections. That rose to 11% pre-realignment. But we've turned a corner. In 2014, this figure will be lowered to 7%. And, despite not incarcerating as many people (actually, being the county that incarcerates the least amount of people!), San Francisco is experiencing record low rates of violent crime. How are we doing this without recurring to mass incarceration?
There are a few things that are in the works. The unsuccessful attempt to reclassify simple possession, a misdemeanor, as an infraction, might be resuscitated. We're beginning to make use of medical parole (trying to save $150 million dollars spent on health costs and security costs involving treatment of inmates who can't take care of their basic needs, some of whom are actually comatose.)
David Onek from UC Berkeley's center on criminal justice mentioned the unique nature of San Francisco's criminal justice apparatus and the remarkable collaboration between its different agencies. While it is, he said, too early for a realignment report card, it seems that San Francisco was well ahead of the curve for a long time.
Jeff Adachi talked about the work that still needed doing: Fixing the racial disparity in San Francisco's correctional institutions and seriously improving our reentry services. One measure taken toward the latter is Clean Slate, which helps folks with convictions start anew and put their lives on track.
Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi said that San Francisco jails are remarkable in that they are undercrowded. He also spoke of his wish to be the first sheriff to request less beds, or to rebuild dilapidated institutions with less beds than they had in the first place.
Commander John Murphy of the SFPD talked about the collaboration between the city's different agencies, and of the effective reduction in violent crime (16% less shootings.) The focus is on Anthony Braga's hot spots - apparently, 50% of all violent crime in the city happens in 2% of its geographical area, which allows the police to focus their efforts in this area, involve community organizations, and shift the attention away from low-level drug offending (arrests for drug offenses have gone down from 50-100 a day to less than 10.)