Maria Ramirez has worked in the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office for more than 30 years.
Now, for the first time, she’s sad – and angry.
“It breaks my heart what is happening in our office and it breaks my heart what that is doing to our community,” Ramirez said.
Ramirez is running to replace current DA George Gascon, who she says is simply not serving the community and has placed too much emphasis on ideology.
She acknowledges the need for criminal justice reform, but said Gascon has gone about it completely wrong.
Gascon’s focus on “de-carceration” – keeping people out of jail – should not “be the goal” of a district attorney’s office.
There need to be certain alternatives for certain offenders rather than jail or prison, but Gascon has shown “no concern with what happens on the tail end” because of his strict ideological path, said Ramirez, adding that the removal of even the threat of jail for low-level addiction-related crimes undercuts the premise of diversion and treatment.
“There’s no incentive now to participate in the alternative,” Ramirez said.
Ramirez said she brings a “unique” perspective to the now 10-person race to replace Gascon, noting she is the only candidate who has served not only as a prosecutor but also in the management of the LA DA’s office itself in the past.
“I’ve run the office on a day-to-day basis,” Ramirez said. “So I have the vision and the experience.”
Gascon, she said, “failed as a leader” from practically his first day in office. Gascon’s notorious no enhancement, no death penalty, bend over backwards for the offender directives were simply sprung on the office.
“He refused to discuss his plans with us (the prosecutors), with the cops, and with the community,” Ramirez said. “He’s not listening and we are afraid for our families.”
Ramirez is also concerned about the new “zero bail” policy set by the county court system, which will hold only the most serious offenders and let a large number of offenders walk with a citation.
“It’s not well thought out and we’re going to have to do something about the revolving door,” Ramirez said, adding she hopes she can work with the court system (the presiding judge of the county sets the schedule, for the most part.)
Ramirez is born and bred local, growing up in Boyle Heights, the daughter of Mexican immigrants. Besides making her the only Latino (let alone Latina) in the race could separate her a bit from the crowded field as that voting bloc plays a very significant role in Los Angeles politics.
As she notes on her website:
Immigration is a subject that is near and dear to my heart. My parents were immigrants who came to this country for a better life for their family and were successful. The interplay of immigration and criminal justice cannot be avoided in LA County. It is our responsibility to ensure that immigrant citizens are treated with respect and given a fair opportunity in our criminal justice system. While there are certain dangerous and violent non-citizen offenders we do not want in our county, there are other hardworking, contributing non-citizen members of our society that need and deserve a second chance. We can do that lawfully and fairly.
The primary election is in March. Ramirez’s website is: https://mariaforda.com/
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