Yes, the San Francisco County Superior Court will sentence you to six months in jail for an “unauthorized snacking offense,” even if it was cookies where the Salvation Army was handing out free lunches to the homeless.
If you need any more reason to cast suspicion on the Salvation Army and their spotty record of alleged compassion, consider the case of 42-year-old San Francisco man Gregory Fields. Fields was participating in a Salvation Army event preparing lunch packages for needy San Franciscans, and after the event, ate one of the leftover cookies. SoMa’s Salvation Army Harbor Light Center demanded there be consequences, which KPIX reports have escalated into a six-month jail sentence.
The horrible holiday injustice has thankfully been undone as of today, though. Vice reports that Fields’ sentence was overturned Monday morning. The San Francisco Public Defender's office tells SFist Fields will be released from county jail tonight, though additional probation may be added to his sentence at a future hearing.
Fields himself is not homeless, but had been successfully navigating a residential treatment recovery program through the Harbor Light Center. He’d already been released from the residential component of the program, and was now living with family, yet still participated in structured Harbor Light events. One of these was an event in November at which Fields ate one (one!) of the leftover cookies.
Harbor Light demanded his immediate expulsion from their recovery program. The San Francisco Public Defender’s office got them to reconsider, but only if Fields started the program over — which requires 60 days residential shut-in, with no contact with family, sponsors, or support. Fields declined this, and a San Francisco County Superior Court judge sentenced him to six months in jail on December 2, though the same judge reverse that sentence this morning.
“The program’s response was grossly disproportionate to the unauthorized snacking offense, and the court’s response to the low-level rule violation is counterproductive and inhumane,” deputy public defender Dana Drusinsky said in a statement. “If the court and providers were in fact focused on Mr. Fields’s recovery, they would not have locked him up for eating a cookie.”
For their part, the Salvation Army’s communication’s director Jennifer Byrd told Vice that “each client admitted to a Salvation Army facility agrees to behavioral expectations,” and noted of the cookie incident, “We did however lose some cookies last week which were set aside for shut-in seniors for Thanksgiving.”
Perhaps so, but this is a textbook example of the over-incarceration of people of color, and the phenomenal waste of taxpayer dollars it creates. Had Fields served that six-month sentence, it would have been on taxpayer dime. While new district attorney Chesa Boudin won’t be sworn in until January according to the Examiner, this case is a delicious example of why he can argue that too many black and brown people are in jail over what amounts to small cookies.
Note: This post has been updated with information from the public defender's office on when Fields will be released from jail.
Image: kgroovy via Flickr