Summit focuses on recidivism 

Meeting of city officials seeks ways to keep parolees from committing new crimes

In a concerted effort to reduce the unprecedented violent crime rate in San Francisco, city officials gather today for an all-day summit to figure out ways to keep those released from jails from committing more crimes.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi and Public Defender Jeff Adachi, who both sit on the year-old Save Communities Reentry Council, have organized today’s summit, which is considered a milestone in that it will allow the sheriff, district attorney, public defender, Mayor Gavin Newsom and the Board of Supervisors to work together to figure out how best to help parolees from returning to a life of crime.

There are about 1,600 parolees living in San Francisco at any given time, with about one-third living in the Potrero Hill and Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhoods, according to a report released Tuesday by the Reentry Council.

"If San Francisco is to get serious and vigorous in reducing its crime rates, especially its violent crime rate, then we cannot deny the alarming recidivism rate," Mirkarimi said. "There is a compelling need to assess, to re-evaluate our approach to recidivism here in San Francisco."

Mirkarimi said in recent months about 430 of the parolees living in San Francisco had their parole revoked and were sent back to jail.

There is a direct correlation between the parolee population in San Francisco and the high crime rate that has plagued The City in the last three years, according to Mirkarimi.

About 60 percent of those released from custody in San Francisco commit a crime, Mirkarimi said. "San Francisco could be doing a great deal more," he said.

Re-entry programs "can reduce the recidivism rate significantly," District Attorney Kamala Harris said.

While there are successful re-entry programs, Sheriff Michael Hennessey said The City could be doing a lot more, such as expanding the programs. "We don’t want people who come out of jail or prison to commit future crime. But they need assistance. They need a bridge into the straight community, into the job-related community," he said.

At today’s summit, Adachi will announce the council’s recommendations to better prevent parolees from committing crime.

"Employment, education and housing — these are the three keys to re-entry," Adachi said.

Recommendations include a parole center. The Board of Supervisors has allocated $400,000 this year to design a Parole Day Treatment Center "to provide on-the-spot services for parolees," Adachi said.

The council also recommends establishing a re-entry court in San Francisco "to allow a person facing a parole violation to obtain services rather than going back to prison," Adachi said.

"We can’t just rely on prisons and jails and police officers to solve the crime in the our communities. It’s just not going to work. It’s a documented failure," Hennessey said.

The summit takes place from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. today in the Milton Marks Conference Center at 455 Golden Gate Ave. in San Francisco.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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