By Julia Asby and William McCurry
LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County has taken steps to limit the use of sentencing enhancements after finding that such enhancements have had devastating and lasting effects on Black, Latino and Indigenous Californians, said the Los Angeles County Democratic Party here.
The LACDP noted that sentencing enhancements have been shown to keep people in prison far beyond what is necessary to secure the safety of the community and, as a result, they have contributed to California’s vast prison population.
The Los Angeles political group also cited outdated discriminatory sentencing enhancement practices as a lasting effect of the tough-on-crime period in the 1990s, noting these practices severely exacerbated “racial disparities in our criminal justice system” while offering no evidence these harsh sentencing policies improve safety.
The group also said limiting the use of sentencing enhancements is supported by the California Democratic Party Platform, claiming that “we are committed to eliminating racial and economic disparities within the criminal justice system and to ending mass incarceration in California prisons and jails”—declaring criminal justice reform must incorporate every aspect of the criminal justice system.
The Los Angeles County Democratic Party said it supports reforming the criminal justice system by limiting the use of enhanced sentencing, which the groups maintains has contributed to excessively lengthy prison terms disproportionately affecting low income individuals and people of color.
“Enhancements were never driven by data indicating they would or have made us safer,” George Gascón tweeted last week. “They have, however, severely exacerbated racial disparities in our system of justice and recidivism which leads to more victims.”
Last week, Judge James Chalfant issued a preliminary injunction against DA Gascón that restricts him from refusing to prosecute California’s three strikes law and restricts him from dismissing special circumstance allegations without legal grounds.
Judge Chalfant said, “The District Attorney’s disregard of the Three Strikes law ‘plead and prove’ requirement is unlawful, as is requiring deputy DAs to seek dismissal of pending sentencing enhancements without a lawful basis.”
The Black Lives Matter-led coalition of supporters has launched the hashtag #StandWithGeorge.
Dr. Melina Abdullah of Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles affirms, “We are standing alongside DA Gascon, because he is advancing the will of the people. This is the people’s progressive justice reform agenda.”
Akili, another BLMLA organizer states, “This is by no means over! We are ready for a long court battle, and are committed to a multi-prong strategy.”
While the lawsuit was filed by the Association for Deputy District Attorneys and supported by police groups, BLM and their allies “intend to challenge the unchecked power of police and prosecutor associations moving forward.”
They said in a statement, “We support transformative change in the LA District Attorney’s Office and the commitments made by George Gascon.”
William McCurry is a fourth year at Sacramento State, majoring in Criminal Justice. He is from Brentwood, California.
Julia Asby is a third year student at UC Davis majoring in Political Science with a minor in Sociocultural Anthropology. She is originally from Sacramento.
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