WHY I’M RUNNING
I am running for Santa Clara County District Attorney to ensure the safety and dignity of all people in the place I’ve called home my entire life. Instead of measuring public safety by prison terms, I will fight mass incarceration and address the root causes of crime to alleviate suffering and heal our community.
As District Attorney, I will honor victims of crimes, hold police accountable when they violate the law, tell the truth about and undo systemic racism, manifest Black Lives Matter, and bring our criminal legal system in line with basic notions of justice and humanity.
Sajid A. Khan is a Santa Clara County public defender, South Bay native, and outspoken civil rights advocate running for Santa Clara County District Attorney.
Sajid believes all members of our community are safer when we honor the dignity of one another. He is running for District Attorney to bring a culture of compassion and understanding to our community and courtrooms. He will work to address the root causes of crime because we cannot incarcerate our way to public safety.
Sajid, born in San Jose, knows and loves Santa Clara County. He was raised here by his parents – Muslim immigrants from Madras, India. Sajid credits his parents with instilling in him a dual faith in service and justice. His parents exposed him to the life and teachings of Malcolm X from a young age, inspiring him to pursue a career defending civil rights.
While Sajid and his four siblings grew up in Milpitas and San Jose, his mother worked as a laboratory scientist at O’Connor Hospital. Sajid’s late father, a physicist in the semiconductor industry, established a mosque and later a school, both in Santa Clara. The mosque, Muslim Community Association, is where Sajid worships today. The school, Granada Islamic School, currently educates Sajid’s two sons.
Sajid is a proud product of Bay Area public schools. As a senior in high school at 16 years old, he juggled the demands of leadership and a rigorous academic program at San Jose High School’s International Baccalaureate Program while serving as the school’s student body president and captain of the varsity football and baseball teams.
That same year, Sajid’s father passed away — and Sajid’s family relied on him to step up to support them. Sajid was thrust into balancing his senior year of high school with stepping into leadership for his family. He made the decision to honor his father by living a life dedicated to service, and now, forever anchored to San Jose, prioritized continuing his education in the Bay Area. Sajid went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in political science from UC Berkeley where he served as a student senator, and later attended UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco to earn his law degree.
When the civil rights values instilled during childhood conflicted with realities taught in law school, Sajid’s perspective focused on what remains his central motivation: eliminating systemic inequities of the criminal justice system. This same passion propelled his career as a public defender starting in 2008.
In 13 years as a public defender in San Jose, Sajid has fought for people’s constitutional rights and against systemic racism and mass incarceration. He has walked our neighborhood streets and come to know the lives and stories of people in our diverse community. He has sat in the county jails and juvenile hall, representing countless individuals who have suffered trauma. And Sajid has heard from survivors and witnessed real harm caused by criminal activity.
In handling every type of case, Sajid has seen how the system operates. He knows how it fails and causes harm to everyone involved. He has advocated for people in more than 40 jury trials in adult court and 25 court trials in juvenile court. The people he has represented include a 14-year-old child prosecuted as an adult, a man exposed to years in prison for a low-level drug offense under California’s inhumane Three Strikes Law, and another man facing the death penalty.
All of these experiences have demonstrated to Sajid the need for a true progressive approach to justice that holds people accountable while offering healing and wholeness for survivors and all involved.
Sajid is an award winning advocate and attorney. In 2016 Sajid was presented with “The Heart of the Office Award” for his service to the community and the people he represents. In 2020, Sajid again was recognized for his achievements as a young attorney in the state of California, receiving the CACJ (California Attorneys for Criminal Justice) Skip Glenn Award for Excellence in Advocacy.
As an author and podcaster, Sajid is a leading voice on criminal justice reform and does not back down when speaking out for what is right. Sajid has appeared on Democracy Now, NPR and The Chasing Justice Podcast. Sajid’s written work has been published in the Stanford Journal of Civil Rights & Civil Liberties, The Marshall Project, the National Association for Public Defense website, the Daily Journal, San Jose Mercury News, Davis Vanguard, and San Jose Inside.
Sajid volunteers with Silicon Valley De-Bug through their participatory defense movement. He’s worked with public defenders, defense attorneys and community organizations across the country training them on how to best serve and humanize the people public defenders represent.
Santa Clara County deserves a new, humane, effective approach to public safety and justice. Sajid Khan would be honored to serve as District Attorney.
APPROACH TO CRIMINAL JUSTICE
I will determine in each case what intervention will address root causes underlying an incident, promote rehabilitation, hold police accountable, combat systemic racism, and respect and restore crime victims.
I will pursue this approach before and at filing, during case settlement discussions, and after trial. No one will be overcharged, coerced into pleas, or receive a harsher sentence recommendation because they exercise their right to trial by jury.
Fight for Racial Justice & End Mass Incarceration
The Black Lives Matter movement has forced our communities to confront the racism embedded in our criminal legal system. As District Attorney, I will work each day to tell the truth about systemic racism, undo the harms inflicted upon people of color through our machine of mass incarceration, and ensure the dignity of Black people, and in turn all people of color, in our county.
I will stand shoulder to shoulder with the movement for Black Lives. I will stop seeking disproportionate sentences under the three strikes law that devastate communities of color. I will end our racist war on drugs. I will fight to end our money bail system that separates families and disproportionately impacts poor and marginalized people. I will put a stop to overcharging, coercive plea bargaining, and the trial tax where people are punished for exercising their constitutional rights. I will advocate for diversion programs and non carceral paths for justice and accountability.
Dismantle the School to Prison Pipeline and Keep Families Together
Too many kids, mostly children of color, are processed through our school to prison pipeline. They are punished beyond all reason and without compassion. Many are from underserved communities and have endured traumas that unfortunately increase their risk of harmful behavior. These factors are overlooked in charging and sentencing decisions. As District Attorney, I will stop dooming generations of young people to lives of incarceration.
I will not prosecute kids as adults. The science is clear. There are fundamental differences between juvenile and adult minds in parts of the brain involved in behavior control. Kids are particularly vulnerable to peer pressure. They engage in riskier behavior for perceived immediate reward without considering long-term consequences. Critically, they possess unique capacities for rehabilitation. My office will structure charges and interventions based on this reality. We will consider childhood trauma and life circumstances of the accused when assessing charges and outcomes in all cases.
Protecting children also includes taking concrete steps to end family separation. We will implement diversion for parents of dependent children to keep families together. We will end money bail to keep families together. By directing staff to treat parental obligations as a factor in favor of probation and against incarceration, we will keep families together.
Stand Up to Police Misconduct
Our communities are rightfully demanding an end to police brutality, racial profiling, and lack of accountability for law enforcement officers who violate the law. As District Attorney, I will protect the public from police violence, corruption, and discrimination.
I will prosecute police officers who unjustifiably kill or use excessive force. I will not prosecute cases where police violate the Constitution or engage in racially discriminatory practices when collecting evidence. I will not allow police officers who have proven to be dishonest to serve as witnesses in court. I will prosecute police officers who falsify reports or commit perjury.
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