By Kalea Heller
FRESNO– Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp strongly criticized Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón’s progressive criminal justice reforms as “extreme” and “twisted” in a passionate letter sent last week.
In her address, Smittcamp joined Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert in a refusal to grant Gascón jurisdiction over crimes that involve their respective counties as a form of protest against Gascón’s newly-implemented policies.
Smittcamp denounced Gascón’s special directives issued in his short time as LA DA as “illegal and unconstitutional.” She called them “extreme,” wreaking havoc on crime victims and ignoring their Constitutional rights.”
Citing Gascón’s “lack of concern for victim’s rights and public safety,” Smittcamp believes his policies will negatively impact victims and only “exacerbate” the county’s crime rates.
Though Smittcamp and Gascón served as district attorneys at the same time when Gascón was the elected prosecutor in San Francisco, Smittcamp doubts the two share much in common. Having never met, Smittcamp can only “judge [Gascón] by the results of [his] work.”
The Fresno DA expressed her empathy for crime victims and has sought to bring them healing and justice in her 23 years as an attorney, she claims, adding she believes in “responsibility and accountability…law and order.”
Smittcamp, unable to understand the benefits of his policy changes, invited Gascón to have an open discussion.
“No matter how many angles I have tried to see it, it all ends up with more crime, less accountability, less responsibility, more victims, more addiction, more mental illness and California continuing to struggle,” she said.
Despite Gascón’s election victory last year over incumbent Jackie Lacey, Smittcamp believes his directives are “not supported by the will of the voters of the state of California.” She predicted that Gascón’s “added leniency” will further allow Los Angeles based gangs to expand beyond LA county.
Questioning Gascón on his awareness of the “great work that is being done by elected DAs across the state,” Smittcamp argued, “We are the criminal justice reformers,” and pointed to the creation of Mental Health Courts, Drug Courts, and other reforms as evidence. “Our goal is to keep them OUT of the system.”
She then admitted that imprisonment often becomes “a necessity” when weighing public safety and victim’s rights with criminal behavior.
Smittcamp characterized Gascón’s criticisms of DAs across California as “offensive, rude and self-serving. You attack prosecutors and police officers so that you can promote your paid political agenda that serves only you and your circle.”
Of course, Gascón is a former beat cop, and a current prosecutor.
She continued, “The people of San Francisco are suffering the consequences of your public safety failures, and now you are attempting to infect Los Angeles with this twisted version of criminal justice reform.”
By comparison, Smittcamp supports “meaningful and productive” criminal justice reform.
She noted her own office’s reform efforts, such as implementing programs to address injustices, engaging in community outreach and prevention programs, and working with the Fresno County Public Defender’s Office on joint budget requests.
“I do not embrace the belief that ‘reform’ calls upon us to abandon our duties as prosecutors or that it eviscerates our obligation to protect the public from violent criminals and to safeguard victim’s rights,” Smittcamp wrote.
She warned of the “impending destruction” Gascón will inflict on his community should he continue to introduce and enforce his new policies.
Kalea Heller is a second year at UC Berkeley, majoring in Psychology and minoring in Public Policy. She is from Daly City, California.
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