Dignity and Power NOW Backs Los Angeles DA George Gascón’s Progressive Policies – But Line DAs Continue Legal Action

George Gascon at a candidate’s forum in February

By Carlin Ross

LOS ANGELES – Dignity and Power NOW, a Los Angeles based grassroots organization that fights for the dignity and power of all incarcerated people, supports District Attorney George Gascón’s progressive policy changes.

But the county’s deputy district attorneys, or line-DAs, do not, and they spent another day in court this week to continue their suit challenging Gascón’s new policies aimed at ending sentence enhancements in the criminal justice system.

Since taking office on Dec. 7, Gascón’s policies of ending sentence enhancements and opening up cases for resentencing are what Michael Saavedra, Community Engagement Organizer with Dignity and Power NOW, calls “crucial day-one moves.”

The legacy of line-prosecutors’ deeply racist and classist “tough-on-crime” era, however, dates all the way back to the 1980-90s. For decades, this mindset has driven line prosecutors to seek incarceration without considering the negative consequences it would have on those within the community.

As Dignity and Power NOW claims, “line-prosecutors have long been indoctrinated into a culture of extreme sentencing, rewards for prosecution, and an adherence to over-reaching prosecutorial bravado.”

On Dec. 30, the deputy DAs filed a suit challenging Gascón’s progressive policy changes to sentence enhancements, including opposition to gang enhancements and the “three-strike” enhancement.

Given the prejudiced and racially unjust history of line prosecution and the criminal justice system as a whole, Dignity and Power NOW said it was not surprised when the suit was made … just disgusted.

Dr. Lamia El Sadek, Executive Director of Dignity and Power NOW, charges, “For the Deputy District Attorney’s Association to sue Gascón because he implemented progressive policy changes that were promised on the campaign trail is regressive and abhorrent.

“We know that voters chose a transformation of our criminal legal system, leading away from an era of tough-on-crime approaches and towards an era of investing in care and community. The Deputy District Attorney’s Association is attempting to block progress to protect their own interests.

“This selfish, insidious approach harms our community members and stalls the progress of our movements. We cannot stand for it,” Sadek said.

Defending the “tough-on-crime” sentencing enhancement mindset will be a difficult task for the Deputy District Attorneys, as empirical evidence and data reveal the toll the hyper-punitive sentencing takes on the lives of those incarcerated. Some data even goes to show how these approaches to criminal justice are counterproductive.

The Sentencing Project, for example, writes how “increasingly punitive sentences add little to the deterrent effect of the criminal justice system, and; mass incarceration diverts resources from program and policy initiatives that hold the potential for greater impact on public safety.”

Dignity and Power NOW urges citizens to support Gascón’s reforms because deputy DAs are seemingly only concerned with keeping and maintaining power for themselves, not with protecting the community.

As Lex Steppling, Dignity and Power NOW’s Director of Campaigns and Policy, says, “the Deputy DA’s are showing a commitment to a long discredited status quo rather than a commitment to public safety, accountability, and ethics. They should be utterly ashamed.”

Despite the controversy, Gascón has promised to reopen the 2012 cases of officer-involved use-of-force and officer-involved shootings. Gascón, alongside his office, is committed to working with the Law School at the University of California, Irvine, to reopen these cases.

Helen Jones, whose son, John Horton’s life was unjustly taken by the LA Sheriff’s Department in 2009, said that “it’s essential that all of our cases be reopened. Any time when the County Coroner is in question, cases should be reopened to reveal what really happened to our babies and to give grieving families answers.

“Gascón is taking a first step, and for District Attorneys to be undermining him in court proves that they are in bed with law enforcement and would never actually hold killer law enforcement officers accountable.

“Rather than challenge Gascón on these enhancements, we need to be focused on supporting his policies of reopening families’ cases, and push him to look back further than 2012 to make sure that no families get left behind,” she said.

Dignity and Power NOW’s Michael Saavendra said that “people have already done their time, and having them do extra time for a sentencing enhancement when they could come home early is wrong.  By re-sentencing people…currently serving a sentence enhancement, people have a chance to re-enter our communities earlier, and have their lives outside of prison begin again.

“Challenging Gascón’s directive to end the filing of sentence enhancements is a vengeful, immoral move on behalf of the Deputy District Attorneys,” Saavendra closed.

Carlin Ross is a senior at Santa Clara University who double majors in English and Philosophy. She’s originally from Bozeman, Montana.

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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      1. Keith Olsen

        Trumpists?  You sure are using that term a lot lately.  How do you know that they are Trumpists?  Maybe they are people who simply don’t like the fact that victims now have to face their assailants alone at parole hearings without the presence of prosecutors due to Gascon policies?

        So am I allowed to use a term like let’s say Bidenistas or Bidenists or something similar on the Vanguard since you are using the term Trumpists?

        1. David Greenwald

          The term has arisen because there is a clear difference between Trump and his followers and traditional Republicans or conservatism. There is really no parallel in the system. Biden is a center-left, mainstream Democrat. Trump is not a traditional Republican.

        2. Keith Olsen

          Those types of terms have been forbidden on the Vanguard as long as I can remember.  So now it’s okay because it’s the other side?  Remember that Trump got 80 million votes, so he’s not as much of an outlier as you would like to make him out to be.

          Biden is a center-left, mainstream Democrat.

          Hmmmm, not so much anymore if we go by the executive orders he has recently signed.  I think the term “Bidenistas” might be appropriate if you’re are going to allow the term “Trumpists”.

          1. Moderator

            I think the term “Bidenistas” might be appropriate if you’re are going to allow the term “Trumpists”.

            I suggest you focus on content more, and less on Vanguard policies. Call them Biden supporters. On your own blog, you’re free to do as you please.

        3. Keith Olsen

          Did Redstate start the recall or are they just reporting on it?

          Here’s what I have found as the initiators of the recall:

          More than 37,000 people who have identified themselves as Los Angeles County-based victims of violent crimes and deputy district attorneys have created a group to recall District Attorney George Gascón, whose policies they say are too soft on crime. 



          1. David Greenwald

            I provided you with evidence that is part of the basis of my comment. Given how often you punt when I request an offer of proof, I don’t think you are in the position to push further.

        4. Keith Olsen

          Once again, what’s your point?  I haven’t seen the clip yet but are you saying because Fox reported on it that the recall is being put forward by right wing Trumpists?

          That’s weak if that’s your premise.

        5. Alan Miller


          KO:  Still waiting David for your proof that “right wing Trumpists” are behind the Gascon recall effort.

          DG:  My proof? It was organized on RedState.com for one thing.

          From the link you cited for me:  During the 2016 presidential election, some writers on the blog endorsed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton for President over Donald Trump.  This generated substantial criticism from some conservative organizations. Some commentators such as Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham argued that the site had abandoned conservatism.  The website has also been criticized by Donald Trump while he was a candidate . . . In August 2015, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was disinvited from the annual RedState gathering . . . RedState was then one of the main centers of conservative opposition to Trump’s campaign for the Presidency, with most of its writers and editors vocally opposing Trump.

          Yeah, RedState sounds like some really out there right-wing Trumpazoids 😐  Ooopsie!

          1. David Greenwald

            By that logic, Fox News wouldn’t qualify, Nevermind that they enabled Trump for most of his tenure.

        6. Alan Miller

          Given how often you punt when I request an offer of proof, I don’t think you are in the position to push further.

          #strawberry# LOL – that brightened my Friday night.  When someone claims you aren’t in the position to push further, sounds like an invitation to show them they are wrong 😐

          KO: Once again, what’s your point? I haven’t seen the clip yet but are you saying because Fox reported on it that the recall is being put forward by right wing Trumpists? That’s weak if that’s your premise.

          I am baffled what the point of that was as well. I guess if you think like DG it’s “obvious” ???

          1. David Greenwald

            What’s baffling here Alan Miller, it’s pretty obvious if you do Google searches where this stuff is coming from. What are you confused about? The right wing is attacking Gascon, they are linking him to their bogeyman Soros, they have been doing it since Gascon was elected. You’re trying to argue by absurd levels of proof that neither of you allow yourselves to be held to – EVER.

        7. Alan Miller

          What’s baffling here Alan Miller . . . You’re trying to argue by absurd levels of proof that neither of you allow yourselves to be held to – EVER.

          The baffling ends here David Greenwald . . . I hereby allow myself to be held to absurd levels of proof – EVER.

        8. Keith Olsen

          You’re trying to argue by absurd levels of proof that neither of you allow yourselves to be held to – EVER.

          LOL, you made an accusation that you can’t back and won’t just come out and admit that you are wrong.

          1. David Greenwald

            Actually I did back it. We also published another article today which has a lot of additional information. Might want to read it.

      1. Alan Miller

        Oh, my God!   They are the subject of an AG investigation?  What was I thinking?  How could I be so ignorant that I didn’t know that?!!!  Well, that just changes everything!

        1. Keith Olsen

          Thankfully someone is stepping up and representing the victims at parole hearings since prosecutors are no longer allowed to under Gascon’s new policies.

          1. David Greenwald

            Yeah, the most corrupt sheriff in the state. A prosecutor’s job is to do justice, they represent the people of the state of California.

        2. Keith Olsen

          Sounds here as if they’re representing the people when they show up at parole hearings and don’t let the victims have to face their assailants alone.

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