District Attorneys in Sacramento, Fresno, Kern, and San Diego counties have voiced their displeasure with Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon’s actions on criminal justice reform. Directives that DA Gascon has put forth include getting rid of cash bail and banning sentencing enhancements and re-sentencing for individuals who are facing extended time in prison. Lisa Smittcamp, the Fresno District Attorney, wrote a scathing letter to DA Gascon on January 19 regarding her disagreement with the Los Angeles Attorney General’s measures. There has yet to be a comment from the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office about the letter.
Enhancements happen quite often for gang members. When a gang member commits a crime, prosecutors use their association with a gang to increase the time that is added to their sentence. Smittcamp said that eliminating enhancements can lead to more gang violence that will not just affect the city of Los Angeles but also spread across the state. Smittcamp along with the DAs in Sacramento and San Diego have indicated that they will not allow LA County to have any influence over crimes that include their counties.
How District Attorneys Across California are Tackling Criminal Justice Reform
Despite the pushback against the actions that DA Gascon has taken, there are many supporters of his efforts. Backers say that the changes that DA Gascon has made are important and necessary to reverse the trend of substantial incarceration of the population. Additionally, advocates of the changes also indicate that the bail system is unfair and low-income individuals are the hardest hit.
Even though there are several California DAs opposed to the reforms that DA Gascon has taken, that does not mean that they have not also made improvements to address the issues. Smittcamp in Fresno created a Mental Health Court, Drug Court, Veteran’s Court, and Restorative Justice program, along with other systems that are aimed at preventing youth from getting involved in gangs. She said that DAs and prosecutors are putting great emphasis on keeping individuals of color, those who are living in poverty, those who have mental conditions, and others who have drug problems the ability to access support programs. Helping these individuals overcome their personal battles could prevent them from getting tangled up with the California criminal justice system. Continue reading