Funding helps ensure justice for the public

? “Public Defender Jeff Adachi is the boy who cried broke,” Melissa Griffin, Local News, Thursday
Funding helps ensure justice for the public

Melissa Griffin’s recent column overlooks key facts about the budget process as well as the criminal justice system.
For ordinary San Franciscans, a properly funded Public Defender’s Office is a matter of fairness. It means those who live in the Tenderloin and the Bayview have the same access to justice as those who live in Pacific Heights and Seacliff. Representation by a public defender is not a luxury. It is a constitutional right.
This year is the 50th anniversary of the Gideon decision that brought real meaning to the Sixth Amendment, which says all Americans have a right counsel.
Innocent people are wrongly convicted more often when public defender’s offices do not have the proper funding.
To overcome past neglect, resources were added to the public defender’s budget over the past decade.
However, with respect to growth in city government, this was not exceptional. Among the nine public-protection departments (district attorney, emergency management, fire, juvenile probation, police, public defender, sheriff and Superior Court), spending increased approximately $400 million from fiscal year 2002-03 to fiscal year 2012-13, from $805 million to $1.206 billion.
This is a more complete context in which to understand the public defender’s current $26.8 million budget.
The Police Department budget over the past decade increased from $307 million to $490 million, or $183 million. All of the foundational work the District Attorney’s Office must have in order to bring a case forward is performed by the Police Department.
Providing poor people with quality representation means public defenders work harder and with comparatively fewer resources than their counterparts in the District Attorney’s Office.
An additional element of the budget process was overlooked that explains the costs of city government. Salaries are established through a process involving the Mayor’s Office and each employee bargaining group.
Those negotiated outcomes are either confirmed or rejected by the Board of Supervisors.
Like all other city departments, the public defender has no authority to set employee salaries.
This is the largest cost driver of most city departments, including the Public Defender’s Office.
These are the realities the Public Defender’s Office works with to perform its mission to provide effective representation to more than 25,000 San Franciscans each year.
Jeff Adachi
Public defender
San Francisco

? “San Francisco Muni buses getting more anti-Islamic ads, this time with anti-gay message,” Local News, March 20
Muni ads offensive to all
Or Shalom Jewish Community joins the Jewish Community Relations Council and many others in condemning the anti-Muslim advertisements now appearing on Muni buses in San Francisco.
Quoting a religion’s most violent fringe and branding the whole group by association is provocative and hateful.
We recognize the First Amendment issues raised by the prospect of banning offensive publicity of this sort, but we are saddened by the thought of San Francisco’s many peace-loving Muslims seeing their faith smeared in public without response from their neighbors.
So, we respond by condemning the ads and stating our wish to live in peace based on mutual respect with all San Franciscans in their diverse faiths, cultures and backgrounds.
Corey Weinstein and
Margo Freistadt
Or Shalom Jewish Community
San Francisco

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