Perhaps Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon sees the handwriting on the wall, and this is his parting shot at a constituency on the verge of recalling the embattled D.A.
Gascon’s office has announced that the Parole Unit, also known as the Lifer Unit, will be disbanded by the end of the year. The Lifer unit is comprised of victims’ advocates and prosecutors whose task is to notify victims and their families when an assailant or crime perpetrator has a hearing in front of the California Parole Board.
Gascon’s office claims in a statement that the responsibility to notify crime victims of impending parole hearings ought not be with the prosecutor’s office but rather with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The statement went on to say that notifying victims can be “triggering” to them and their families, and victims have the right not to be contacted when their assailant’s parole hearings have been scheduled. The Prosecutor also claimed staffing issues are at play as lawyers and other investigatory personnel are needed for “in-line operations and prosecutions” instead of victim notification services.
This move comes soon after another controversial action from Gascon when last year he barred prosecutors from attending parole hearings for even the most heinous criminals. Additionally, his directive encouraged prosecutors to support parole after felons had served their mandatory sentence minimum.
These moves have come with backlash; some of which emanating from the Prosecutor’s office itself. While Gascon’s office asserts that while the Life Unit will be disbanded, crime victims will still have access to Victim’s Services Representatives, Deputy District Attorney Julianne Walker is critical of the move:
“Victim Service Representatives are not lawyers and do not understand the legalities of the parole hearing. Their skills are providing emotional support and services. Gascon continually puts forth ‘services’ as if he is protecting their ‘rights.’ He is not.”
Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney John Lewin said,
“What Gascon wants to do is he wants to make it so that not only the next of kin are unaware of these parole hearings, but he wants to make sure that prosecutors and district attorney’s offices don’t hear about them either.”
On a Twitter post, L.A. County Deputy District Attorney Ryan Erlich remarked:
“@GeorgeGascon has done a bunch of terrible things since Dec. 2020. But turning his back on the families of victims of violent crime is beyond callous. If he had EVER tried a homicide, he would know that we have a moral duty to, at least, support those folks at parole hearings.”
Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, a Gascon recall supporter, said she was “disheartened” by Gascon’s latest decision. “The district attorney’s policies continue to deteriorate public safety while eroding the protection that is rightly owed to victims.”
And of course, the timing of the D.A.’s latest announcement is worthy of notice. Just last Wednesday it was announced by Recall DA George Gascon, the group spearheading the recall effort, that 717,000 signatures of the needed 566,857 needed for the recall to be placed on the ballot had been submitted to the LA County Registrar. With this news, it is likely that the recall election will take place later this year.
Just last month, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin was convincingly recalled by voters as an answer to their perception of his being “pro-criminal” and soft on crime. In light of this and also the obvious fury of citizens across the nation angered and frightened by spikes in crime in cities with progressive prosecutors, the electoral trajectory appears to be ominous for Los Angeles D.A. George Gascon. This latest disregard for crime victims certainly cannot help is desire to remain in office.
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