gavel.jpgSan Francisco’s Sentencing Commission held its inaugural meeting today, which District Attorney George Gascon said he hopes will improve the justice system and reduce the recidivism rate in the city.

In January, the Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance setting up the commission in response to realignment, last October’s California law that shifted responsibility for the majority of criminal offenders to local jurisdictions rather than the state.

The 13-commissioner panel, consisting of top city officials like Gascon, police Chief Greg Suhr and Public Defender Jeff Adachi as well as various appointed members, met for the first time at City Hall today.

Gascon said the goal of the commission is “to develop best practices” for sentencing offenders in the city, as well as “to influence the dialogue at the state level.”

He said about 70 percent of San Francisco’s incarcerated population will re-offend after being released, and that the current policies to deal with this group are not working.

“The past several decades have been very driven by punishment,” Gascon said. “Rehabilitation has been taken out of it.”

Wendy Still, chief of the San Francisco Adult Probation Department, said the commission is “one more way that San Francisco is leading the way for progressive criminal justice reform that balances accountability, rehabilitation and also breaks the intergenerational cycle of crime.”

Gascon said drug offenders are one group that he is seeking to target via the commission.

“We’ve incarcerated a very high numbers of drug addicts, those people often actually become more of a problem when they get released,” he said.

The commission will reconvene two or three times a year during the next two years and eventually report to the Board of Supervisors on its conclusions.

“The goal here is to continue becoming better at what we do,” Gascon said.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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