SF District Attorney: Smart on Crime

Kamala Harris, the DA in San Francisco, recently posted:

In San Francisco, I have developed a smart on crime approach: we must be tough on serious and violent offenders while we get just as tough on the root causes of crime. In my office, we have raised felony conviction rates and sent more violent offenders to state prison, at the same time we have launched innovative, cost effective approaches to reduce recidivism, truancy, and childhood trauma. With a genuine investment in breaking cycles of crime, we can improve public safety at the same time that we save precious public resources.

The full post here.

A thought I had: can we transform our view of the justice system from being one of punishment and deterrence, to restraint, restitution, and restoration? By restraint I mean viewing the necessity of prisons not as a means of revenge, but as a means of restraining people from harming others and themselves (my Buddhist mind holds that any harm we do to others is also, inevitably, in some way, perhaps inobvious, harmful to ourselves as well; my environmentalist mind, looking at the natural world and how our inconsiderate behaviors return to us as cancers etc. etc. agrees).

As for “rehabilitation” — Perhaps a useful term to keep in the list. Re = return to; habile = home. Let us remember that “home” is the entire community, and if we are to return to it after we have harmed it, everybody is best served if our process of return includes making things right. That’s where restitution (direct action to repair or pay for harms) comes in; and where restoration (symbolic action to make amends and create the conditions for healing) is critical.

Let’s start changing the language today. Restraint, Restitution, Restoration, Rehabilitation. In that order (although with very restrained use of restraint, only when needed to protect people, never as mere punishment).


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