What We Learned About Justice – Voice of San Diego

Downtown Protest 6 28 20 11
Protesters gather in downtown on June 28, 2020 where San Diego Police officers shot and wounded a Latino man earlier that day. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

What We Learned This Week is back, and it looks a little different.  

First, an introduction: I’m Megan, the engagement editor here at Voice of San Diego. I support all the great work our reporters do and make sure it reaches readers, like you. 

If you’ve been a long-time subscriber, you know Sara Libby (our former managing editor and creator of WWLTW) is now politics editor at the San Francisco Chronicle. As I take over this newsletter, I want to hear from you. I’ll be featuring interviews with reporters and community members, a roundup of must-read stories from our team and interesting comments from readers that caught my attention (yes, I read the comments).  

Now, let’s get to it. We wrapped up Politifest this week, our annual public affairs summit that zeroes in on big topics and issues in our region. This year’s theme was Law and Justice in San Diego and included discussions on sentencing disparities, surveillance, and policing homelessness. We also hosted a debate between the candidates running for sheriff which you can read more about here. 

One conversation that I want to share with you happened Tuesday. Local journalist Kelly Davis led a discussion on sentencing disparities, and we got a real look at how conviction affects our community. 

Our panelists debated the effectiveness of Prop. 47 and Prop. 57, which reduced certain drug and theft crimes from felonies to misdemeanors and allowed for incarcerated people to earn sentence credits for participating in rehabilitative programs. Assistant District Attorney Dwain Woodley said that although his office believes some sentences have been “extremely harsh and extremely unreasonable compared to what we’re doing today,” that it’s important to consider the victims of crimes.  

“Part of the justice system is holding people accountable for their criminal activity, but also making sure that we get justice for our victims … So when we then changed the law and allowed them to be released earlier than what the original sentence was, that impacts our victims,” Woodley said.  

Jay Jordan, who is now vice president of Alliance for Safety and Justice after spending more than seven years in prison for robbery, said that’s an issue. 

“You deal with victims when they go through trauma, right?” Jordan said to Woodley. “And you don’t even represent victims. You are a representative of the state. We give defendants an attorney, not victims an attorney.” 

Jordan spotlighted the fact that people who are sent to prison often return to the same neighborhoods, and sometimes the same household, as the victims after they complete their sentences. 

“It always has to be, let’s lock people up. Let’s give people longer sentences. We know that does not work,” Jordan said. “Data says putting somebody in a cage, taking them out of their natural environment and not giving them the rehabilitative things they need does not make their community safe. That’s what Prop. 47 did. It actually gave people an opportunity to get help.” 

What do you think? Share your thoughts with me and I might feature your response in my next newsletter. If you want to hear more about our conversations from Politifest, listen to the latest VOSD Podcast. Our editors Scott Lewis, Andrew Keatts and Andrea Lopez-Villafaña highlighted different discussions from each night. 

News You Can’t Miss  

  • To follow this week’s theme of law and justice, Andrew Keatts checked in on 11 priorities that Mayor Todd Gloria announced as part of an April “police and public safety reform package.” 
  • Lisa Halverstadt also checked in on Gloria’s promise to stop “criminalizing” homeless San Diegans. Enforcement has been dialed back from pre-pandemic levels, but enforcement of crimes tied to homelessness continues. 
  • More than a year after activists demanded that San Diego Unified get cops out of city schools, the district has started making some changes. The most noticeable: New uniforms for school police and the decision to stop assigning officers to single schools but instead to clusters of schools. 
  • The second episode of our new San Diego 101 Podcast series released this week. Hosts Adriana Heldiz and Maya Srikrishnan explain how law enforcement works in San Diego — and who holds police accountable. 
  • We’ve had several readers in recent weeks ask why data reported by national news outlets, like the New York Times, show a vaccination rate of just above 50 percent in San Diego while local officials report that most San Diegans are fully vaccinated. It turns out that CDC data (which, yes, is still published) is wrong 

Read These Comments 

On having police on school campuses … 

As a parent of a SDUSD middle school student, I don’t want police on campus. It sends a terrible message to students. I don’t have police at my work site, so why have them at school? Sherry Schnell 

On Gloria’s reform package … 

Why didn’t setting a clear policing on employing the use of deadly force and requiring de-escalation training for cops make the list? Shoot first and ask questions later seems to be the motto of cops throughout the country. – bgetzel 

On incorrect vaccination data from the CDC … 

This has been driving me crazy for months. Every national outlet shows San Diego as being extremely low on vaccinations, while our county data says the opposite, and I couldn’t understand why this wasn’t being corrected. I still don’t really understand why they can’t correct it, but at least I know that I am not the only one noticing! – kmccabesandiego 

I hope you’ll continue to read our new adaptation of this newsletter, but if you’re no longer interested, here’s where you can update your preferences. If you appreciate this work, consider signing up for one of our other newsletters. Have suggestions for me or want to hear from someone specific in a future Q-and-A? Respond to this email or drop me a line at megan@vosd.org.