San Francisco Green Party District Attorney Candidate Questionnaire 2022
Due Date: Saturday, Sep 3
Candidate Name: John Hamasaki
Phone Number: +1 (415) 724-4355
Web site: https://hamasakiforda.com/
Name of Campaign Manager: Kaylah May
Signed voluntary spending limit: No.
Major Endorsements: SF Berniecrats, Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club, SF Latinx Democratic Club, SF League of Pissed Off Voters, Mark Leno, Tom Ammiano, Matt Gonzalez, Norman Yee, Sandy Fewer, Gloria Berry, John Avalos, Gloria Berry, Li Miao Lovett, Peter Gallotta, Carolina Morales, Anabel Ibanez
Who did you endorse for Mayor in 2019 (all 3 choices, if applicable): I didn't make any endorsements for Mayor in 2019
1. Who else have you endorsed in other contests (this year or next)?
No on H
2. What do you think of the Death Penalty?
My opposition to the death penalty is a key tenet in my commitment to racial justice and dismantling systemic racism in our justice system. The administration of the death penalty is outdated, fraught with racial bias, endangers the most vulnerable members of our community, and subverts the integrity of our criminal justice system. As District Attorney, I would seek to end the death penalty.
3. How would you support the work of the Innocence Commission?
I have and will continue to fully support the work of the Innocence Commission. Wrongful convictions disproportionately affect communities of color, and if elected I would ensure that the Innocence Commission has sufficient staffing, funding, and the other resources they need to correct wrongful convictions and, thereby, addressing systemic racism in the criminal justice system. I will afford great weight to the recommendation of the Commission.
4. Under what circumstances, if any, would you request cash bail?
Cash bail undermines public safety and if elected I will work with pretrial services and community based organizations or safely end the use of cash bail. Individuals who pose no imminent risk to public safety should not be incarcerated prior to having their day in court. No one should be held in a cage simply because they cannot afford to purchase their freedom.
On the other hand, individuals who do pose a demonstrated public safety risk may be detained irrespective of how much money they have in their bank account. Justice should be held equally under the law regardless of wealth or status.
5. Under what circumstances, if any, would you try a juvenile offender as an adult?
As District Attorney, I will end the practice of prosecuting children as adults, absent rare and exceptional circumstances. In those circumstances the decision will be made by experts, not just prosecutors, I will rely on child development, social workers, and other experts to consider in very rare circumstances. I will work with law enforcement to prevent interrogation of kids absent the presence of counsel and their parents, advocate for diversion programs and specialized courts that address the needs of young adults, and seek alternatives to incarceration for teenagers where possible and appropriate.
As any parent knows, kids sometimes make risky and dangerous decisions. That's because neurological development continues until age 25 and young brains differ from adult brains in ways that increase the likelihood of risky and reckless behavior. But the fact is that most young people who commit crime do not continue to do so into adulthood. When kids and young adults experience little contact with the criminal justice system, and when their cases remain in juvenile court, their long-term outcomes are substantially better. Locking up kids has never been shown to enhance public safety. Rather, it is correlated with higher rates of recidivism. Prosecuting children as adults further destabilizes juvenile offenders, increasing their likelihood of reoffending in the future.
6. We understand the District Attorney's office has a limited budget and staff. How would you address the current backlog of open criminal cases in San Francisco?
We have a serious backlog of criminal cases and trials in San Francisco Superior Court due to the pandemic. Cases where incarceration is the only DA offer clog up the court system for many months and years. While every case is different, we need to more frequently consider alternatives to incarceration that address public safety while also allowing the charged individual the opportunity for rehabilitation. Beyond the pandemic, cases can get backlogged if the District Attorney fails to consider the individual facts and circumstances of the case. Often, in attempting to appear “tough-on-crime” prosecutors fail victims, the criminally charged, and the community. We need more thoughtful and creative solutions, which I'm committed to considering and implementing.
7. How should the Sheriff's Office address the extreme staffing shortage?
The Deputy Sheriff's Union has been pushing contradictory claims, that they don't have enough deputies and that they should be the ones to staff San Francisco International Airport. I haven't reviewed a staffing analysis to understand if their current deputies are being deployed effectively. But the situation at the jails is definitely concerning. It is a well-paid job, I believe the reason people aren't applying is the same as the police - the culture has driven good people away. The culture needs to change.
8. Would you prosecute the possession and/or sale of more than 5 grams of fentanyl as a misdemeanor or a felony?
We have a serious drug crisis in San Francisco right now. Too many people are dying on our streets. But we cannot arrest our way out of addiction. We need a public health approach towards users, treatment and services.
I believe that low-level dealers should be given a chance at rehabilitation and provided opportunities through job training, treatment, and services. If they are unwilling to consider alternatives, I think it is appropriate to use the criminal justice system to deter drug sales on our streets. What that looks like will be on a case-by-case basis, but it can be anything from community service to address the harm to jail if they are not willing to work together.
Plea agreements should be focused on doing justice, addressing the harm, and rehabilitation. No matter the crime, nearly everyone returns to the community.. We want to set them up so that they can find another path if they face incarceration. The goal has to be ending recidivism to create true public safety.
In short the decision between a felony and a misdemeanor and treatment is case-by-case.
9. How would you use community justice courts?
The policies, initiatives, and services of community justice courts (particularly the CJC in SF) fully align with my views/aims on addressing the issues with incarceration in our criminal justice system. I am committed to prioritizing more thoughtful and effective methods of preventing crime through helping individuals by connecting them with community services, instead of focusing on the crime. I would definitely refer cases to community justice courts where appropriate, in order to best prevent the on-going cycles of recidivism.
I have worked firsthand with clients at CJC and know the positive outcomes that can occur when people are given the opportunity to address the underlying problems, not just secure another conviction.
10. What do you think of closing 850 Bryant?
I support the closing of 850 Bryant. Inmates, visitors, and employees all are forced to conduct business in a building in disrepair with reported rat and roach infestations, asbestos exposure, and a score of sewage and plumbing-related issues. This has to change.
I also generally support decarceration. I've spent my career trying to find alternatives to incarceration that address public safety while creating opportunities for reform and rehabilitation. In the pretrial stage, we can use a number of data based solutions to pretrial incarceration, from monitoring to GPS devices that will protect public safety while preventing people from losing jobs and being away from family. We rely too much on jails and prisons to solve problems that could be addressed within the community.
However, in criminal justice terms, sometimes folks need to “sit-down” for a minute. Sometimes the harm is too great, or the offender is unwilling to accept responsibility and work together for a better future. Incarceration should be a last, not first, resort. But until we have a better system, it is necessary in certain cases.
11. What do you think of SF closing our Juvenile Hall?
I start with the belief that children do not belong in cages. Pretrial release and supervision has to be the priority in dealing with kids. Alternatives to incarceration may be community based housing and setting the child and their family up with the services necessary to succeed.
I start with the presumption that children should not be charged as adults. I will, however, form an “Exceptional Circumstances Committee” to review the rare case where I might make an exception to the rule. For example, a school shooting/deaths, 10 days before the 18th birthday might be something that would qualify. But I wholly understand that children's brains are still developing past 18, so I would also bring in mental health and social worker professionals to help the committee.
12. What do you think of current police staffing levels?
I worked directly on the Matrix Staffing Study for SFPD, while I think it has some excellent analysis, it also has serious shortcomings. Staffing is also a question of deployment, a decision usually made by the mayor and police chief. For example, while a murder in the Bayview may only get a single investigating officer, a single smash-and-grab at Louis Vuitton in Union Square resulted in police blanketing the area for over a month. We are spending too many resources on low-level crimes and non-crimes (homelessness & mental health), when these issues should be handled by the appropriate public health and housing agencies.
These types of decisions result in police losing their credibility as even-handed in public safety. Police resources should be used to address public safety and crime, not public health.
13. Do you believe body cameras are working to prevent police misconduct in San Francisco?
While body cameras alone cannot address the beliefs, biases, etc. that underlie police misconduct, I believe that requiring the usage of body cameras can help with accountability for police misconduct. One problem is that unless there is a criminal case or a complaint to Dept. of Police Accountability, most of body
Body cameras would be one among the many initiatives I would support to address police misconduct, which also include civilian oversight bodies for the Police and Sheriff's departments, investing in more bias training, and redirecting some resources away from policing into social services and community resources. Investing in services, housing, education, jobs and infrastructure is key to getting people the help they need and promoting public safety.
The chances of misconduct significantly increase when police officers are called to deal with situations they are unequipped to handle, when they should be focused on preventing and stopping violent crime. I aim to address police misconduct through moving beyond the reactionary approach of the past and embracing proactive, thoughtful community building policies that improve public safety for all.
14. How would you address local government corruption?
It's imperative to public safety that the District Attorney's office remains independent and above politics. One of the top three priorities if elected is to build trust in the District Attorney's office with marginalized communities. Through this priority I will expand the Public Corruption Task Force with additional dedicated investigators and attorneys. We cannot continue to turn a blind eye while relying on the federal prosecutor's office - it's time for San Francisco to clean house by cracking down on City Hall corruption.
15. How would you enforce laws regulating powerful local tech companies such as Airbnb, Uber, Lyft and Doordash?
For a long time, big tech companies have been able to escape criminal prosecution because they are big donors to political campaigns. I am running as the only independent District Attorney, with a campaign funded by grassroots support (I have pledged to reject any corporate donations), therefore my administration would not be unethically influenced by any big businesses or big techs. I am committed to the regulation of powerful local tech companies, to protect business employees and gig workers.
First, I will seriously prosecute violations of two Californian laws that big techs frequently violate at consumers' expenses: (1) the California Consumer Privacy Act, which secured landmark privacy rights for CA consumers; and (2) the Cartwright Act, which prohibits any agreements amongst competitors to restrain trade, fix prices or production, or reduce competition.
Another way in which I'm committed to regulating powerful tech companies (and general corporate crime) is through rigorous prosecution of wage theft. The historical failure of prosecutors to tackle wage theft and other corporate crimes has led to the feeling that we have a two-tiered system of justice, with criminal courts being reserved for the poor and working class. The other problem is that wage theft and corporate crime often have the largest impact on regular working people who are already struggling to make do. Focusing resources on these cases will not only help restore integrity to the justice system, but prevent employers and corporations from targeting the poor and working class. I plan to work with local nonprofits and the labor commissioner to ensure prosecution of those who steal wages from those under the poverty line and the working class, in the aim of securing living wages that can sustain a healthy quality of life for workers.
16. Please state how you intend to serve victims of crime, be they property crime victims or the families of murder victims.
One of my top priorities as DA would be to reimagine our approach to victims services to help victims heal and break cycles of trauma and violence. The vast majority of crime victims today are unsatisfied with their experience with the criminal justice system. Our justice system expects punishing offenders to heal victims and in doing so ignores the voices of victims who have long demanded a new approach to victims services.
From expanding victims compensation funds and decreasing the wait time for victims to receive compensation, to offering restorative justice programming, hiring more victims advocates, ensuring a sufficient number and array of victim's services language interpreters, investing in cultural competency and racial bias trainings, and listening to the majority of victims who want to see investments in rehabilitation and treatment programs, I strongly embrace an overhaul of victims services.
I also plan to build more trust between victims of crimes and the DA's office. Lack of trust undermines public safety, resulting in the underreporting of crime and unwillingness to testify against offenders. If elected, I will take proactive action to reduce offending behavior by taking the prosecution of hate crimes and sexual assualts with the seriousness they require, and dedicating resources to building trust between our office and our communities.
17. What do you think of the concept of restorative justice? What specific plans do you have to implement your ideas?
I believe that restorative justice is a powerful tool, as it has been shown to promote healing and improve a victim's experience with the justice system. I believe that it can be particularly impactful when it comes to hate crimes, both in terms of healing the damages to victims, and teaching the offender not to reoffend.
As District Attorney, I would see restorative justice as a useful practice in 1170(h) offenses. Additional consideration should be given in cases involving young adults under age 25 on a case-by-case basis for a broader range of offenses. This is in recognition of the social science research regarding young adults.
18. What standards do you support for police use of force? Are there any "less-lethal" weapons that you support arming the police with?
The SFPD policy on use-of-force is actually decent as far as police use-of-force policies. It generally follows leading national best practices. It is how the policy is applied and police are disciplined that is the problem. I do not support tasers or less-lethals such as rubber bullets, tear gas or LRAD. Batons are considered also less lethals and are often abused.
A lot of this comes down to training and culture.
19. DA Gascon had a policy of only charging cases that he thought he'd easily win. What standard will you apply?
Gascon didn't charge any police officers with excessive force cases, when I believe there were cases that could be charged. I disagree with the idea that you can only bring cases you can “easily win.” Sometimes, when the evidence supports it, you have to bring tough cases because the law supports it and it is the right thing to do, this includes police violence.
Furthermore, I am committed to prosecuting hate crimes and sexual assaults with the seriousness they require, per my policy of zero tolerance towards gender, racial, and identity-based discrimination in my administration.
Your positions (at the time) on selected current and past Propositions
(skip any for which you didn't live or vote in SF, or didn't take a position at the time):
+ - :
[ X] [ ] [ ] June 2022 Prop A (General Bond)
[ X ] [ ] [ ] June 2022 Prop C (Recall Reform)
[ ] [ X ] [ ] June 2022 Prop H (Boudin Recall)
[ X] [ ] [ ] Nov 2020 Prop G (16-17 y.o. voting, local elections)
[ X] [ ] [ ] Nov 2020 Prop I (Real Estate Transfer Tax)
[ X] [ ] [ ] June 2018 Prop F (Eviction Defense)
[ ] [X ] [ ] June 2018 Prop H (Tasers for SFPD)
[ X] [ ] [ ] Nov 2016 Prop D (Vacancy appointments)
[ ] [X ] [ ] Nov 2016 Prop N (Non-citizen voting, school board)
[ ] [ X ] [ ] Nov 2016 Prop Q (Prohibiting tents on public sidewalks)
[ X ] [ ] [ ] Nov 2016 Prop 62 (Ending Death Penalty)
Due Date: Sat, Sep 3, 11:59 pm.
Please submit by email to email@example.com. For more information, call
Barry Hermanson at 415-255-9494. Please return your answers in plain
text (not HTML, PDF, or Word format), so that we can post all
candidates' answers in the same format.
The SF Green Party will invite all candidates who return completed
questionnaires on time to speak and answer questions at our candidate
forum and endorsement meeting (scheduled for Wed, Sep 7 from 6:30 - 9
pm). Please note the earlier start time. We hope to finish all
candidate interviews by around 8. If you need to schedule a
particular time slot, or if you are unable to make the meeting, please
be in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Otherwise, we'll interview
candidates as you arrive. This will be a hybrid meeting, so you may
also talk to us via Zoom if you prefer. Our forum and endorsement
meeting will take place at the Redstone Building, on the third floor
(room TBA). The Redstone is located at 2940 16th Street (between
Mission and South Van Ness, 1 block from 16th St BART).
Completed questionnaires will be posted on our website,