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Matrix Reloaded—Tried and Failed: Newsom Administration Proposes Illegally Arresting San Franciscans for Being Poor

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The Newsom Administration memo leaked by Supervisor Daly indicates that the Administration is planning to illegally arrest people who are too poor to afford a place to live. In a memo dated September 28, 2007, Julian Potter wrote “If the arrest is related to a misdemeanor, warrant, intoxication or a 2nd citation for the same time period, the individual will be taken into custody for processing.” (Original here).

It is against local and state law to arrest an individual for an infraction. Almost all the offenses listed in the above memo are infractions.

According to Elisa Della-Piana of the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights, “No Mayor can arbitrarily decide to bring an individual into custody for an infraction. There are obvious legal problems with this proposal.” Already, over $6,000,000 in public funds has been spent to issue 34,000 so-called “quality of life” citations under the Newsom administration.

According to Jennifer Friedenbach, Executive Director of the Coalition on Homelessness, “It is outrageous that while violent crime is on the rise, the Newsom administration is prioritizing the use of the police and the criminal justice system to further persecute homeless people. This is Matrix Reloaded—an identical program that has been tried and failed. Instead of repackaging failed policies that criminalize poor people, the Mayor needs to work on permanent solutions such as affordable housing, treatment, and living wage jobs.”

While the Newsom Administration is claiming services will be offered, no new services have been forthcoming for this program, and existing services have either long wait lists or high turn-away rates. The City’s recent homeless count, released March 28, showed a 2% increase in homelessness. The Coalition on Homelessness tracked an average of 49 turnaways from shelters a day in February, 2007. There is a wait list of over 54,000 households for public housing and subsidized housing at the San Francisco Housing Authority, and lengthy wait lists for residential substance abuse treatment.


Author: Street Sheet Editor

The STREET SHEET is the oldest continuously published street news paper in the United States. Organizationally, it is the public education and outreach tool of the Coalition on Homelessness. Every month, the STREET SHEET reaches 32,000 readers through over 200 homeless or low-income vendors. Our vendors are charged nothing for the papers they receive, and keep all money they earn through STREET SHEET distribution.

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