Following his election, the progressive LA DA George Gascón is already facing backlash and a recall effort by law enforcement agencies and prosecutors.
Gascón, who was elected following the police and prison-reform-oriented Black Lives Matter protests, is on a mission is to “end the machine of mass incarceration,” and has received pushback to his reforms every step of the way. Just three weeks following his election in December, the LA deputy prosecutor’s union sued to block Gascon from ending the use of enhancements.
According to a Guardian report, Gascon’s reforms consist of ending “tough on crime” prosecutions, such as trying teenagers as adults, or filing gang enhancements that increase the severity of gang members’ sentences, as well as eliminating three-strike charges that require life sentences for people convicted of multiple offenses.
Other reforms seek to offload crowded prisons. Gascon plans to review thousands of cases for resentencing, and will not send prosecutors to parole hearings. This could affect nearly 20,000 prisoners in maximum security prisons, giving hope to some who thought they would never see the light of day.
Jody David Armour, a University of Southern California law professor said, “It’s a commitment to a different moral framework – turning away from retribution, retaliation and revenge as the dominant moral compass, and moving toward restoration, rehabilitation and redemption.”
However, law enforcement agencies and families of murder victims are pushing back against these reforms, which they believe will make it so criminals have more lenient sentences, and will release dangerous prisoners to the public.
A recall effort from a victims’ rights advocacy group is currently underway, in which they claim that although Gascon “promised a softer and gentler criminal justice system that would reduce incarceration rates for minor offenders and place increased focus on mental health and addiction issues,” his policies ultimately make county residents less safe. They believe that his “radical agenda” ignores victims and “endangers” the lives of Los Angeles citizens.
In response to LA Sheriff’s Alex Villanueva’s backing of the recall effort, and to the union’s attempt to block his reforms, Gascon told the Guardian, “These are all very hardcore ‘law and order’ kind of people, who have opposed every single criminal justice reform. So, to that end, I’m not surprised. But I am surprised by the lengths they are willing to go to mislead.”
He also attacked Fox News’ stories accusing him of letting dangerous criminals loose on the streets as “propaganda,” and says that these stories imply that “there is no room for redemption.”