Los Angeles County has a new district attorney and he is making some big changes in the county’s criminal justice system. Newly sworn-in George Gascón reports that the district attorney’s office will no longer seek cash bail for any misdemeanor or non-violent, non-serious felony offenses.
Gascón, a former San Francisco prosecutor, introduced a sweeping set of reforms that go well beyond cash bail. He also plans to take the death penalty off the table in sentencing and will seek to resentence inmates on death row to life in prison. Additionally, he plans to stop the practice of charging minors as adults.
Cash bail works to criminalize poverty. Unfortunately, it means that those who can afford to pay their way out of jail are set free while those who cannot are imprisoned. It also means that individuals are penalized financially before they have even been convicted of a crime. When Philadelphia experimented with ending cash bail for low-level offenders, an assessment found no negative impact on recidivism or courtroom appearance rates.
On top of reforms for offenders, he also introduced reforms for victims and their families. Gascón will expand victim services for the families of individuals killed by police officers and will no longer require that victims of crime testify against perpetrators to gain access to victims’ services.
Although some critics claim that Gascón’s actions are too progressive, the former police officer and police chief brings a unique perspective to the D.A. as someone who has worked from all angles of the law. His actions bring a new focus on rehabilitation and justice to the county at a time where it’s most needed.
Image source: LA Times