San Francisco has no felons


SLAMMERThere used to be hundreds, probably thousands of them. Felons who were out there, still uncaught. And felons who had done their time, and were back on the streets, looking to get a decent job, or slipping back into their own habits.

But now, because of a unanimous resolution passed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in July, there are no felons. They’ve been magically replaced by “Justice-involved persons”, “Formerly incarcerated persons’, or, my personal favorite, “Returning residents.”  By the way, there are no more juvenile delinquents, either. Thanks to the same resolution, they’re now a “young person with justice system involvement,” or a “young person impacted by the juvenile justice system.”

Back in the good days, how did you earn the title of felon? You committed murder. Rape. Lewd acts with a child under 14. First-degree burglary. The sale of a controlled substance. Or vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence

Or you might have committed what the justice system calls a “Wobbler”. That’s a crime that could be prosecuted as either a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances of your case, the occupancy level of the penitentiary, and maybe the phase of the moon: A partial list of wobblers includes: Assault with a deadly weapon. Domestic violence. Forgery. Sexual battery. And vandalism.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed didn’t sign off on the new language proposal. According to a spokesperson, the Mayor  “…doesn’t implement policies based on nonbinding resolutions, but she is always happy to work with the board on issues around equity and criminal justice reform.”

Of course, the Mayor should enjoy the equity of this freshly scrubbed language.  Her brother, Napoleon Brown, is serving the 18th year of his 42-year prison term. For his role in a June, 2000 robbery in San Francisco, Brown was charged with robbery, carjacking and murder. The victim was the getaway driver, Lenties White, who police claim Brown pushed into southbound traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge after the car stopped mysteriously in mid-span. Brown was convicted on all counts. But because of a technicality, Brown’s charge was changed to manslaughter. Brown pled guilty, and was sentenced to 42 years. Because Brown was caught with heroin in prison, the justice system added another two years to his sentence.

In the last few weeks of Jerry Brown’s term as California governor, Mayor Breed took the controversial step of writing to the governor asking that her brother’s sentence be commuted. The governor wisely declined.

But the Mayor can take some comfort. When her brother is finally released from Solano State Prison, and fills out employment, rental, or credit card applications in San Francisco, he can now describe himself as a “Returning resident”.

Photo: Flickr: Creative Commons

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