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San Francisco Recall Shines a Light on the Perils of Progressive Prosecuting

Billionaires and Republican donors are out in full force raising the ire of their constituencies against San Francisco’s elected District Attorney. San Francisco is miles away from Chicago in terms of gun violence, population size, and murders per year, but voters are ready to pull the plug on their District Attorney. Why are progressive prosecutors having such a difficult time even in liberal cities like San Francisco?

For decades, the Americans have been treated to only one position on crime: You are either “tough on crime” or you are not. If you are “tough on crime” then you are one of the good guys. If you are not, then you are aiding and abetting criminals. It is all very simple and appeals to the sort of black and white thinking that people employ when they are fed up with a situation. Do San Francisco residents have due cause to be fed up with their elected prosecutor?

Black and White

San Francisco, demographically speaking, has a 5% Black population, while Chicago’s is nearly six times higher. San Francisco, like most major cities, has seen an uptick in car thefts and carjackings in recent years since the pandemic. There have also been higher incidents of retail theft, just like in every other major city. 

Traditional approaches to prosecution involve the prosecuting of crimes and sending offenders to prison for as long as possible. Progressive approaches do the same thing while paying lip service to progressive causes such as education, job skills training, mental health services, and more that do work, but are not funded by taxpayer money (or if they are, they are grossly underfunded). So it all boils down to the age-old question of rehabilitation versus punishment. 

“Tough on Crime” Prosecutors are Not Doing Better

Crime is up in every major city across the U.S. and homicides have spiked since the pandemic. This is true in liberal cities where police unions and others can blame liberal policies for the spike in crime. It is also true in conservative cities where “tough on crime” prosecutors continue to seek the maximum penalty. In other words, your approach to crime does not necessarily impact the rate of crime. This makes sense because prosecutors enter the fray only after a crime has been committed. Their role is not to prevent crime at all but to ensure that those who commit crimes get punished.

The problem is that the role of a prosecutor is simply to prosecute crimes. The role of a defense attorney is to prevent individuals from being charged with crimes they did not commit. A defense attorney can never say, “this dude is guilty and I don’t want him on the streets, so let’s help the prosecutor out.” Similarly, prosecutors do not look to exonerate those who have been charged. When these things get mixed up, people become afraid. That does not mean that the initiatives they support are not better at preventing crime than punishment. It just means that they have chosen the wrong job.

Talk to a Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney Today

David Freidberg represents the interests of those who have been charged with serious crimes in the Chicago area. Call today at (312) 560-7100 to schedule an appointment and we can begin preparing your defense immediately. 

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