Amid a heated public debate on closing San Francisco’s Juvenile Justice Center, Mayor London Breed has seemingly sacked the 12-year president of the Juvenile Probation Commission, who ostensibly would have played a leading role in the center’s possible closure.
Juvenile Probation Commission President Rebecca Woodson has tendered her resignation from the commission, which she said was at Breed’s urging, this columnist has learned.
“Following up on our conversation yesterday, I understand Mayor Breed will not be re-appointing me to the Juvenile Probation Commission for a fifth term, and would like me to resign. Thus, please consider this letter my tender of resignation, effective immediately,” Woodson wrote in a letter to City Hall, Wednesday.
Woodson, who served on the commission for twelve years, wrote “it is with a heavy heart that I tender this letter.”
For nearly 20 years Woodson has practiced environmental law at Dentons US LLP, and also previously served as a deputy district attorney in San Mateo County.
The Mayor’s Office denies they asked her to resign and said they merely replaced her and went “a different way,” said Mayor’s Office spokesperson Jeff Cretan. Woodson’s term had expired, Cretan explained, and they made a different appointment.
The new Juvenile Probation Commissioner will be Margaret Brodkin, the 26-year former director of Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth, a San Francisco youth advocacy group, and four-year director of San Francisco’s Department of Children, Youth & Their Families, which she also helped create.
It’s hard to tell if Woodson’s forced resignation tips Breed’s hand — Notably, The Mayor’s Office has been mum on whether or not the Juvenile Justice Center should stay, or go.
Woodson herself couldn’t say what her departure may reveal about Breed’s position. One insider said it showed promise for closing the juvenile center, while another said appointing Brodkin was on Breed’s to-do list for awhile.
When asked if the mayor’s request for her resignation was related to the proposed closure of the Juvenile Justice Center, Woodson told me “I don’t know if it was or not. I didn’t speak to her directly.” Instead, the news was relayed from a Mayor’s Office staffer.
Woodson said she thinks any proposed closure should be “looked at carefully, and be a discussion among many, many stakeholders who have dedicated their time to serving youth in their community.”
In the meantime, what position will Breed take?
On the one side, you’ve got a number of the Board of Supervisors, including Supervisors Shamann Walton, Matt Haney and Hillary Ronen, who on Tuesday introduced legislation calling for the facility at 375 Woodside Ave. to shutter by 2021.
It incarcerates young people who need help, not jail, they say, and disproportionately targets young people of color.
On the other side, you’ve got Rev. Amos Brown of Third Baptist Church, president of the local chapter of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People, who told my colleagues Tuesday that juvy should stay open, in part because some youth need the structure and supports it provides.
“I say amend it, don’t end it,” Brown said.
While Breed’s position on the Juvenile Justice Center remains opaque, the mayor’s spokesperson, Jeff Cretan, told me Breed wants to “do the work” of digging through possibilities, reforms and otherwise, with her Juvenile Justice Reform Blue Ribbon Panel, to arrive at an answer.
Breed has said previously that closing the Juvenile Justice Center before researching potential impacts would be “irresponsible.”
There also may have been a small hint that Woodson would soon lose her seat in Breed’s announcement of that blue ribbon panel, as many of its seats were named, but the seat belonging to a juvenile probation commissioner was described as “to be announced.” That panel will meet for the first time April 18.
At the very least, Breed will replace Woodson, I’ve been told.
On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email Fitz at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @FitztheReporter, and Facebook at facebook.com/FitztheReporter.