No one exemplifies the post-Floyd antiracist reformer more dramatically than George Gascón. In 2011, when he was mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom appointed Gascón as the city’s district attorney; before then, Gascón had led the police agencies of San Francisco and Mesa, Arizona. In November 2020, Gascón was elected district attorney in Los Angeles, running on an antiracism platform and ousting L.A.’s comparatively conservative black district attorney.
Within hours of taking office, Gascón instituted 90 pages of policy changes that had been recommended by defense attorneys and anti-incarceration advocates. He banned the use of all sentencing enhancements, which seek a higher sentence for a particular crime than might otherwise be sought. Grounds for enhancement include criminal history and the defendant’s conduct during the latest crime in question, such as the use of a gun or the infliction of great bodily harm.
This prohibition on enhancements resulted in about 8,000 fewer sentence years imposed during Gascón’s first three months in office, compared with the same period in the previous year, reported the New York Times. Gascón banned his staff from bringing cases against criminals who had resisted arrest, trespassed, engaged in disorderly conduct, loitered for the purpose of prostitution, driven with no license, or driven with a suspended one. He banned prosecutors from attending parole hearings. He eliminated bail for all “nonserious” offenses.
Gascón started reviewing the sentences of some 20,000 state prisoners for possible early release. In March 2021, a convicted murderer in Sacramento’s Folsom State Prison recorded a video of himself and another inmate toasting Gascón for his retroactive sentence shortenings. While convicted felons would get their sentences reopened for review, police officers who had shot a suspect but who had been cleared by Gascón’s predecessor would see their cases reexamined for possible prosecution.
As Tom Cotton wrote in December, 2021: Recall, Remove & Replace Every Last Soros Prosecutor.