An odd pattern has emerged in San Francisco as the city responds to the Covid-19 pandemic. The world of the well-off has become tightly restricted by public quarantine orders, and the world of the poor increasingly resembles that of Mad Max—lawless, crime-ridden, and devoid of functioning authority.
Over just a few weeks, San Francisco has instituted a policy that can be described as “decarcerate, decriminalize, and depolice.” Reducing the jail population, permitting public camping and other forms of disorder, and scaling back police presence in low-income neighborhoods have always been the favored policies of San Francisco’s progressive activists. In the past, residents and business groups could restrain the most extreme impulses of the political class. Now, with the coronavirus providing cover, city leaders have pushed forward their agenda with new vigor.
Citing concerns about a potential coronavirus outbreak among the incarcerated, District Attorney Chesa Boudin has reduced the county jail population by nearly 50 percent. Contrary to the rhetoric of decarceration advocates, these released detainees are not “nonviolent drug offenders.” The most recent one-day snapshot of the San Francisco County Jail revealed that 68 percent of inmates were charged with violent crimes, weapons offenses, and other serious felonies; only 4 percent of inmates were arrested for drug crimes. Boudin’s campaign of humanitarian release would benefit many violent offenders, who now roam the streets during a major social crisis . . .