SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – A former former troubled youth who turned his life around to become a social worker will help San Francisco prosecutors decide how best to pursue criminal charges against some offenders, District Attorney George Gascón announced Thursday.
Gascón has hired Luis Arocha to serve as a sentencing specialist who will advise when offenders should be steered away from county jail, and when a tough sentence should be pursued.
KCBS’ Margie Shafer Reports:
“The goal here is to try to assess the risk for the community and determine whether a person should be incarcerated or not, whether they should be on community-based supervision,” Gascón said.
The District Attorney’s Office chose Arocha because of a background that would offer insight into whether an offender is facing social pressure, for example, to join a gang.
Arocha left the gang lifestyle behind to pursue a degree in social studies and later start a career as a social worker.
Gascón said he is concerned about the number of new inmates headed to San Francisco jails under the governor’s realignment plan, even though the county jail population dropped from 2,200 to 1,500 per day during his tenure.
“We still haven’t seen the full impact of realignment,” Gascón said, adding that he was optimistic new sentencing policies would keep the number of inmates from swelling.
The Board of Supervisors recently approved the creation of a sentencing commission to steer low-level offenders away from expensive jail time. It costs the city $57,000 per bed to house someone in county jail.
Gascón endorsed the sentencing commission as a way to reduce recidivism by reserving incarceration for truly dangerous criminals.
“Incarceration for the real low-level offenders has a tendency to harden them, and quite frankly, provide an education in how to commit crime because they start associating with people that have engaged in more serious crime,” he said.
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