L.A. County D.A. Gascón Vows ‘Efforts To Transform A Dated Approach’ Are ‘Just Beginning’

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón reached his 100th day in office on Wednesday and held a virtual press conference touting his policy changes that shook up the nation’s largest criminal justice jurisdiction.

“Since I took office, I’ve instituted a series of reforms based on data and science that will enhance the safety of our community while reducing racial disparities and the misuse of incarceration,” Gascón said. “Our efforts to transform a dated approach that creates more crime, more victims, and inequities are just beginning.”After Gascón took the oath on December 7, he announced a set of special directives that sparked an immediate revolt from deputy DAs in his own office, as well as families impacted by violent crime, and motivated a recall effort.

One of his most controversial moves was ending all sentencing enhancements, which act as extra punishments added on to an underlying charge. The order, which was not part of his campaign platform, banned prosecutors from filing enhancements and required they be withdrawn from pending matters. A public outcry helped persuade Gascón to re-evaluate that directive and swiftly reinstated the use of some enhancements for cases involving “the most vulnerable” victims. Still, there are more than 100 enhancements in California’s penal code.

“Enhancements are no longer sought in most cases as research suggests that excessive sentences don’t enhance safety but do exasperate recidivism, leading to more victims of crime,” Gascón said during the news conference.Gascón cited statistics that compared his first three months in office to the same period last year, which he said showed a 71% reduction in enhancements filed. He said the drop eliminated “over 8,000 years of unnecessary prison exposure time.”

Taking a new approach to promote ending enhancements, Gascón claimed the strategy eased the burden on taxpayers, saying “cost savings are projected to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.”

LAist reported, “If those defendants are convicted, their shorter sentences will save the state prisons $664 million, according to Gascón.”

Eric Siddall, vice president of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA), told The Daily Wire, “(Gascón’s) math is pure fiction.”

“Enhancements, for the most part, are only applicable to violent criminals,” Siddall continued. “What he is really saying is that he is no longer prosecuting violent criminals to the fullest extent of the law.”

ADDA filed a lawsuit against Gascón, alleging he had ignored laws and placed prosecutors in an ethical dilemma. Last month, a judge issued a preliminary injunction ruling Gascón’s sentence enhancement policy violated California’s Three Strikes law, which Gascón had promised not to enforce if elected.

On Wednesday, Gascón spotlighted his record of withdrawing 77 pending motions to transfer juveniles to adult court and establishing a Crime Victims Advisory Board to provide support during parole hearings instead of prosecutors. He said the death penalty had been taken off the table because “it costs taxpayers tremendously,” predicting, “and soon enough, the rest of the country will follow suit.”

“The first 100 days – a failure of justice: complete abandonment of the law, victims rights, public safety, personal accountability, punishment, facts and truth, human decency, and caring and empathy for all,” tweeted Jon Hatami, a deputy district attorney in Gascón’s office who has been critical of the new direction.

Hatami recently filed a lawsuit against Gascón alleging defamation.

Tania Owen, a retired detective for with L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, is an honorary co-chair of the recall group. She is also the widow of slain LASD Sgt. Steve Owen, who was murdered in the line of duty in 2016.

“Gascón has transformed Los Angeles County’s top prosecutorial office into a public defender’s office that prioritizes protecting criminals over victims,” Owen said in a statement. “Gascón has made our most vulnerable communities less safe by eliminating sentencing enhancements for violent criminals, ending cash bail, and offering parole opportunities to cold-blooded murderers.”

D.A. Gascón insists, “we are doing all of this because the science and data tells us to do so,” adding, “and together we can truly enhance public safety, increase equity, expand victims services, and strengthen police accountability.”

However, several Gascón critics have questioned the validity of the research he often references, alleging the findings tend to be more anecdotal than scientific and come from like-minded progressive organizations advocating for drastic systemic reforms. On Friday, Gascón posted a string of tweets repeating the claims he made earlier this week, with citations.

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