By Suzy Loftus
I’m running to be your next District Attorney because our next law enforcement chief has to recognize one central truth — this job is about seeking justice and safety for all of the people of San Francisco. Not just some of them. I’m running for District Attorney of San Francisco because I believe in the radical notion that all of the people in our great city deserve both safety and justice.
As a San Francisco courtroom prosecutor, I proudly stood up in court and said, “Suzy Loftus for the People”. As the child of an immigrant who attended San Francisco public schools , standing up on behalf of the People was a tremendous honor. I handled domestic violence cases where I worked to keep survivors safe and interrupt the cycle of violence. I worked on elder abuse cases to keep our most vulnerable seniors safe. I also had the chance to work closely with then-District Attorney Kamala D. Harris as she pioneered the Back on Track reentry program, the first in its kind in the country. We focused on solutions, second chances and redemption.
I’m proud and honored that US Senator Kamala Harris, Mayor London Breed, District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton, Human Rights Executive Director Sheryl Davis and many others have endorsed me.
There are realities to face if we are going to make meaningful change: in the last 30 years, California has built 21 new prisons but only one new university. Our criminal justice system relied on incarceration so heavily that the United States Supreme Court ordered California to release prisoners due to extreme overcrowding. And, the dramatic overrepresentation of African Americans in our criminal justice system was growing by the day.
A reckoning needed to happen. California’s failed strategy of overreliance on incarceration as the predominant public safety strategy was broken. And, the most devastating impact of these failed policies fell on communities of color that faced over-policing and more severe sentences for the same crimes.
Recognizing that we could not arrest and prosecute our way to true safety, I left the California Department of Justice and joined Dr. Nadine Burke Harris in Bayview Hunters Point to build the Center for Youth Wellness (CYW). CYW was designed to address the impacts of toxic stress and exposure to trauma in childhood as the public health crisis that it is. We had one young patient who at 6 years old had already witnessed 3 homicides. He got access to the care that he needed to process what had happened in his life and have a chance to heal and thrive. One in six children in California have been exposed to four or more traumatic events. We have to invest in addressing childhood trauma across the City instead of waiting for children to fall through the cracks and then throw up our hands when they fail.
Our public safety strategy must first adopt a public health approach. If we invest in prevention, helping kids and families when they need it most and investing in our young people, we can reduce crime and also end the incarceration of children as we know it in San Francisco. We can build a city that is both safe and just.
But we are not there yet — today, African Americans make up 58% of those in SF jail, while only 5% of our population in San Francisco is African American. We know that racial bias runs throughout the justice system, mass incarceration has ruined the potential of countless lives and devastated communities, and exposure to violence and trauma affects the brains and development of young children with potential lifelong impact. Meanwhile, gaining access to resources and services for crime survivors remains extremely difficult or nearly impossible. We can and must do better.
I’m running because I believe the DA can either reinforce the status quo – which includes systemic racism, a lack of victim services, especially for immigrants and working folks, and too little attention on crime prevention strategies proven to work. Or, the D.A can be the people’s lawyer – all of the People – fighting to ensure that justice comes fairly,regardless of what neighborhood or country you come from or the color of your skin. If I’m elected as your District Attorney, I will fight alongside our community leaders and partners to build both safety and justice for all San Franciscans. And that means everyone.