On his first day as head of the country’s largest prosecutor’s office, the Los Angeles chief attorney announced a series of major criminal justice reforms aimed at “permanently” changing the course of California’s criminal justice system.
George Gascón, who was elected as a reformer last month and ousted the county’s first black district attorney, said in a long thread on Twitter on Monday that his office would no longer apply for the death penalty, which he described as “racially and morally unsustainable.” . ”
Of the 215 people on Los Angeles County’s death row, 85 percent are black people, he said.
Prosecutors will not require bail in cases of misdemeanor, non-serious or non-violent crime – a system he called a “terrible proxy for risk”.
Prosecutors will not be filing amendments – like California’s “3 Strikes” law – that can put people in jail for much longer sentences.
Gascón pointed out that between 1990 and 1999 – five years after the law was passed – the California prison population exploded, growing from 94,000 to 160,000.
As part of his announced reforms, children will no longer be tried in adult courts, low-level crimes related to poverty, addiction, mental illness and homelessness will be referred to the health service, and his office will look into cases where long sentences are “inconsistent ” were. with sentencing and fee guidelines.
That review could apply to at least 20,000 people behind bars, Gascón said. Cases where people have committed nonviolent crimes or are older and are unlikely to commit further crimes will be prioritized, he said.
His office will also set up a conviction integrity unit to review innocence claims, and a separate department will review habeas corpus or conviction letters that defendants can file after the appeal process is exhausted.
If an allegation appears well founded, his office will immediately open an investigation.
Gascón, a former Los Angeles police officer who oversaw reforms at the Los Angeles Police Department in the 1990s and later headed the San Francisco District Attorney’s office, said the reforms “permanently change the course of CA’s criminal justice system and end law enforcement supposed to be the era of mass imprisonment in Los Angeles and beyond. “
The Los Angeles Police Union described the reforms as “worrying” and possibly “catastrophic”. Gascón is examining “all possibilities to get those responsible out of prison” in order to increase the number of violent crimes in recent times.
“The new prosecutor is playing a good game, but his plans will do no more than continue harassing Los Angeles residents, particularly Black and Hispanic residents who currently account for 70% of the victims of violent crime,” the union said in an explanation. “These victims and law-abiding residents lost a vote today while criminals and gang members gained an ally in the prosecution.”
Andrew Blankstein contributed to this.