Officials explore parolee-crime link

Mayor: ‘The fact that recidivism rates are as high as they are suggests that we are not doing justice to the system’

The lack of proper assistance for parolees is directly tied to San Francisco’s high homicide rate, Mayor Gavin Newsom said during an all-day summit Wednesday aimed at keeping people who are released from custody on the right side of the law.

“We’re never going to succeed in dealing with the crime and violence issue unless we succeed in giving people hope and rehabilitating them and giving them alternatives,” Newsom said.

Crime has become a bigger-than-usual issue for many city residents, as the number of city homicides has climbed to 69 this year, ahead of last year’s record pace that resulted in 96 total homicides.

At any given time, San Francisco is home to about 1,600 formerly incarcerated people, of whom about 60 percent will commit a crime again.

Wednesday’s summit, organized by Public Defender Jeff Adachi and Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, gathered together key figures in the criminal justice system in an effort to spark a collaborative working relationship for the future.

Officials highlighted some existing re-entry programs during the summit. Sheriff Michael Hennessey praised the high school program in the county jail system that allows those jailed to obtain a high school degree. The Sheriff’s Department also operates drop-in spots around The City such as the Women’s Recovery Center, located at 930 Bryant St., which provides support services to women who come out of jail or prison.

District Attorney Kamala Harris said Back on Track, a program she helped launch, has proven successful. The program provides services to young adults charged with drug offenses. If they successfully complete the program, the charges against them are dropped. Of the 49 who participated during the program’s pilot phase, only one has been charged with a new offense.

Still, officials acknowledge more needs to be done.

“The fact that recidivism rates are as high as they are suggests that we are not doing justice to the system,” Newsom said. “It’s our collective responsibility to reconcile that and to work collaboratively agency to agency, city to city throughout the state to address this. We have a moral, ethical and economic obligation to do so. And that’s the spirit of this initiative.”

“We’re on the right path but we’ve got to have an order-of-magnitude change,” Newsom said. “We need to work more collaboratively with the DA, the public defender and the state system.”

jsabatini@examiner.com

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