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Behind the recall in San Francisco: A failed socialist youth rehabilitation program

police tape, do not cross
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The recently recalled District Attorney Chesa Boudin and the successful recall of three socialist-leaning members of the San Francisco elected public-school board show that SF voters realize socialism doesn't work in practice.  

I never thought I would say this but I applaud SF voters, who threw out three socialist-leaning school board members weeks ago and a socialist DA this week.  

Based on this week’s successful recall vote, SF’s voters are saying:

  • We have buyers’ remorse after the election.
  • Socialism sounded good on paper, but it didn’t work for us.
  • Socialist promises were appealing before the election but life under socialist governance is horrible.

Where did the DA go wrong?

Chesa Boudin's high-profile failure stems from his thought that he could rehabilitate criminally-minded youth by letting them loose after each criminal incident without bail, without jail time, and without a criminal charge. In the process, he frustrated the police, who arrested the law breakers and were faced with arresting them again and again after repeated crimes.

His policies appear to assume that being “nice” to criminals would change them and end their life of crime. The reality defied his assumptions.  

If people are not held accountable for their crimes, why would they change their criminal conduct?  A DA is expected to hold people accountable — that is the DA’s job description. After the DA recall, San Francisco Mayor London Breed was quoted as saying, voters are “really frustrated about a lack of accountability for crimes being committed in San Francisco...”

But if Boudin's criminal justice policies didn't work, what other options do we have?

The true rehabilitation of the criminally minded

After Boudin was voted out, I spoke to a pastor friend in Philadelphia who was a former police officer. I asked his opinion about San Francisco’s recalled DA and his “be nice” methods to rehabilitate young criminals, which backfired.

The former police officer was clear in his answer, “one needs a change of heart before quitting a life of crime.” He has seen it as a police officer and as a pastor for decades.

The truth is, to rehabilitate youths who are committing crimes, one must seek a change of hearts and minds. 

Faith-based ministries rehabilitate errant youth by conveying the following:

  • The need for confessing sin and criminal conduct in one’s past.
  • The need for repentance.
  • The need for seeking God’s forgiveness for past sins and crimes through Jesus Christ.
  • The need for living a life consistent with the promise of eternal life through faith in God and His mercy and grace.

There is no substitute for faith-based solutions for rehabilitating youth engaged in repeated crimes.  Cities must seek help and programs from churches and pastors. In addition, cities engaged in true rehabilitation of youths must seek policies that will keep families together and end fatherlessness.

Paul Swamidass, PhD, is Professor Emeritus, Harbert College of Business, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama. His newest book is Greater Things: The Qualifications of a Biblical Leader, Vide Press, 2020. He and his wife, Nimmi, worship at Redwood Chapel Community Church, Castro Valley, CA.

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