Photo by Sean Pavone via Shutterstock

On Dec. 7, George Gascón was sworn in as L.A. County’s 43rd District Attorney. He promptly announced the changes he will be making during his term.

The former District Attorney for the city and county of San Francisco was elected with over 500,000 votes, beating the eight-year incumbent candidate Jackie Lacey.

Throughout his campaign, Gascón has repeated the word “modernize” when it comes to the criminal justice system and he has not wasted any time in moving forward with his plan.

His official website released a statement saying that Gascon was sworn into office at 12 P.M. and at 12:01 P.M. he sent an email to the entire Los Angeles District Attorney’s office detailing the new directives that would be effective the next day. 

The first directive outlined was the removal of cash bail for non-violent crimes and misdemeanor charges.

Proposition 25, also known as The Replace Cash Bail With Risk Assessments Referendum, on the Nov. 3 ballot called for the removal of the current system claiming that it unfairly targeted low income communities made primarily of people of color.

The prop ultimately did not pass meaning that the cash bail system was to be kept in place.

Gascón also announced sentencing enhancements are no longer allowed to be practiced under the “tough-on-crime” justification.

Prosecutors will no longer be able to pursue “non-related” charges such as violations of the Three Strike law, charges the defendant received as a juvenile, violations of bail, and any STEP act violation, such as being affiliated with a gang.

If a defendant has been charged with any of the enhancements within 120 days of Dec. 8, they are eligible for resentencing.  

Another directive taking effect is removing the death penalty. In the directive, it said that though only 13 people have been executed in California since 1978, seven times that amount of people have died while waiting for execution. 

Among the justifications listed for repealing the penalty are: the possibility of executing an innocent person, the money spent housing death row would be better spent on community programs meant to improve residents of the community and “the death penalty serves no penological purpose as state-sanctioned killings do not deter crime.”  

Gascón took a strong stance for children in his Youth Justice directive saying that a new set of principles will be followed when sentencing children.

“Our prosecutorial approach should be biased towards keeping youth out of the juvenile justice system and when they must become involved, our system must employ the ‘lightest touch’ necessary in order to provide public safety,” wrote Gascón.

The orders listed to begin immediately span four pages with some notably prominent including: 

Effective immediately, youth accused of misdemeanors will not be prosecuted but referred to pre-filing community-based diversion programs. Declining charges for property damage and minor alterations that have taken place with the youth’s family, instead referring them to DCFS. 

Effective Jan. 1, 2021,  youth defendants will no longer be tried as adults, court systems will avoid labeling normative adolescent behavior as a sex offense, withholding objections to removing the defendant from sex offense registries for offensives committed when the defendant was a youth. Deputies can no longer seek detention for youths leaving designated placement, and objections can no longer be made to requests of records being sealed.

The district attorney also issued a Resentencing Policy for all people that have already served 15 years or more in prison.

Considerations will be taken into account for every case, but anyone who falls into one of the following categories will be expedited for review, 

● People who have already served 15 years or more;
● People who are currently 60 years of age or older;
● People who are at enhanced risk of COVID-19 infection;
● People who have been recommended for resentencing by CDCR; 8
● People who are criminalized survivors;
● People who were 17 years of age or younger at the time of the offense and were prosecuted as an adult.” 

Gascón, who calls himself the Godfather of Progressive Prosecution, has stated that his modernization of the criminal justice system will correct the wrongs of systematic racism and inequality that have happened in the past.

“We have destroyed entire communities. We’ve destroyed generations of people within communities, and this is a day of reckoning now,” he said.

Written ByKarissa Leuschen

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