Los Angeles, under Mr. Gascón’s predecessor, Jackie Lacey, maintained a more punitive approach to crime, and in recent years sent people to state prison at four times the rate of San Francisco.
Mr. Gascón, who won the office from Ms. Lacey by a wide margin in November, speaks often about how, as an officer, he found himself locking up multiple generations of Black men from the same family. Over time, his views on crime and punishment changed, and he said he sees it as his job as district attorney to undo the damage of that time, especially for Black and Latino communities in Los Angeles.
“Those days continue to haunt me,” he said of his time as an officer, in his inauguration speech.
Mr. Gascón points to data that shows lengthy sentences increase recidivism and thus make the public less safe — a direct rebuttal to those supporting the recall in the name of public safety. He believes that most people, even some that have been convicted of violent crimes and especially those who committed their crimes when they were young, deserve second chances. He has also promised to do more to hold the police accountable for on-duty shootings, and is reviewing old cases in which Ms. Lacey declined to prosecute.
Mr. Gascón said that his office will carefully weigh whether a person is suitable for release, either because of advanced age or because they are model inmates, and that people still believed to be dangerous to the public will not be let out early. And judges and parole boards would have the final say.
Already, in his first three months in office, prosecutors have sought roughly 8,000 fewer years in prison compared to the same period a year ago through eliminating many so-called enhancements — special circumstances such as the use of a gun in a crime, or gang affiliations or prior felonies under the “three strikes law,” a pillar of an earlier era’s war on crime — that can add years to a sentence.
The elimination of enhancements has perhaps provoked the most anger from his own prosecutors, who form the largest office in the country. A lawsuit filed by the Los Angeles Assistant District Attorney’s Association resulted in a judge ruling largely in favor of the union, saying that in most active cases underway before Mr. Gascón took office he cannot order prosecutors to eliminate the enhancements.
Richard Ceballos, a longtime deputy district attorney who prosecutes gang cases, said he was outraged when he was ordered by the new administration to remove a gang enhancement in a case in which an alleged MS-13 gang member was accused of stabbing a transgender woman in MacArthur Park. He briefly ran for the top job before exiting the race in 2020, and endorsed Mr. Gascón.
Author: Tim Arango
This post originally appeared on NYT > Top Stories