With Recall Effort Failing, Gascón Turns to What He Was Elected to Do

George Gascón speaks at the rally at SEIU 2015 in Los Angeles on Wednesday – photo by David Greenwald

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Los Angeles, CA – DA George Gascón this week learned that the recall effort against him fell short of the required number of citizens and, on Wednesday at SEIU Local 2015, he told a group of union members that the work of his office at reform must go on.

“We are paying the price of global incarceration and the corruption of our system,” Gascón stated.  “If locking people up was about making us safer, LA County would be the safest county in the world. And our country would be the safest country in the world. But guess what? We are not, but we are not, we are not because we have over-criminalized generations of Black and brown people, taking away the opportunities for communities to grow and foreclosing their opportunities to be a productive contributor to our nation that continues to destroy one generation after another.”

He said, “We cannot continue to live in gated communities and somehow believe that that is going to insulate us and somehow make us safer.”

He added, “We have an opportunity to stop building prisons and start building more public universities.

“We cannot get there by taking those who are mentally ill or less fortunate and locking them up,” the DA said.  “Those are the steps that are creating the insecurity that we’re experiencing today. Not only in LA, but around our country.”

Gascón noted that their office is prosecuting crimes at the same rate as prior DAs.  “The difference is that we are being discerning in the sentencing,” he said.

He said, “If the intervention only requires five years in prison, we don’t want to send somebody for 50 years.”

He added, “We’re being discerning when we’re looking at a 16-year-old that has never had an opportunity to grow and makes a horrible mistake, and causes harm and understanding that while we have to work with that victim and ensure that the harm is reduced to the extent that we can, that locking up a 16-year-old for life is never going to fix our problems.”

Gascón noted that respecting the victim is important, but “respecting our victims is not necessarily sending an offender to prison for the rest of their life or to the death penalty.”  Rather he explained, “Respecting the victims is actually intervening and addressing the trauma that has been caused by the harm.  Respecting our victims in understanding that over 80% of the people of imprisoned debate fact, over 85% of the women that are in prison have been abused, have been traumatized, have been victimized. We have to understand that hurt people, hurt other people.”

Further, he added, “accountability is much more complicating than just simply locking people up.”

He said, “Accountability is about holding people responsible for the harm that they have caused, but understanding that they are still members of our community. Accountability is about understanding the 95% of the people that we incarcerate are coming back to our community.”

But he explained, unless we provide thoughtful rehabilitation and reentry, they are going to reoffend because we’re throwing them on the streets. We’re not allowing them to be able to work. They don’t have a place to stay. Come on. And then we are surprised when they’ve re-offended, talking about accountability. What about assisting accountability? You cannot just simply say that accountability flows in one direction.”

While Gascón has noted his past as a police officer in Los Angeles, on this day, he also noted that he grew up in this community as a young immigrant who was a Spanish speaker.

“I don’t live in a bubble,” he said.  “My family lives in this community.”

He said, “I grew up and lived in a one-bedroom apartment.”  He noted, “The living room was the living room during the daytime and it was my bedroom at night.  The couch was my bed.”

He added, “The sad part of my story is not that I’m standing here because I am blessed.  But you know why? Because most of the kids that grew up with me never had an opportunity to stand here with me. They never had an opportunity to have a union job. They never had an opportunity to go to college.”

He said, “They had generally a one-way street path to jails and prisons.”

Gascón noted, “Not only does that not make us safer, but it costs so much more.”

He noted the cost of state prison is over $100,000 per year, but a public university is $30 to $40 thousand and a community college people can attend for free.

“I’m here to tell you that I’m grateful for our community, because I would not be standing here without you.”

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Keith Olson

    This is another example of Gascon’s policies at work in L.A.

    Current LA DA George Gascon — who is facing recall efforts over his own soft-on-crime policies — confirmed that Tesfamariam, who turned 52 on Saturday, was on probation when he was accused of attacking silver medal-winning volleyball player Glass, 37, on July 8.
    He admitted that Tesfamariam had convictions for felony assault, but was free despite having “a troubling history of attacking apparently random people with dangerous weapons.”
    Lee said her attacker’s freedom to harm other women was proof that “there’s a climate of preferential treatment for violent offenders over that of law-abiding citizens.”
    “There’s just this climate, this feeling, that people will get off without any real consequence and that people are focusing on the violent criminals over the victims who are being daily victimized,” she told Fox.

    1. David Greenwald

      What does this case have to do with Gascon? The guy was dealt with in 2018 and 2019 by the previous DA, served his time and was released.

      The bigger problem is not the policies of Gascon, but rather that 95 percent of people who are incarcerated get released without the services and support needed to make sure they don’t commit additional crimes. The fact that this guy was homeless and given services for housing and mental health is the reael tragedy here.

      1. Keith Olson

        Yes David, you’re correct, these attacks occurred before Gascon was in office.  But why was the attacker  free on parole and as the victim claims “And he’s violated probation, and he’s violated paroles … and [he’s still] doing the same thing.”

        The fact that this guy was homeless and given services for housing and mental health is the reael tragedy here.

        I think people see it differently, take the statement by the person who was attacked for instance:

        But the real issue, she stressed, was that the man charged with flinging a 10-inch metal bolt at her face was free on parole despite having “assaulted many people before.”
        “And he’s violated probation, and he’s violated paroles … and [he’s still] doing the same thing,” she said of Semeon Tesfamariam, 51, who officials confirmed had twice been convicted of felony assaults.
        “But you guys didn’t hear from his former victims. And you guys haven’t heard from the other victims of the other attacks that have been happening — repeatedly happening — in the city,” she said of L.A.
        “Because it’s really clear that things have to change. That’s evident,” she said, revealing that some of L.A.’s “political leaders have reached out” to her, without identifying whom.
        “I just I don’t want this to happen anybody else,” she said.
        Without that change keeping dangerous felons behind bars, “we’re putting our citizens, our healthcare workers, our cops — everyone — in harm’s way,” she said.

        1. David Greenwald

          You are asking multiple questions here, but I don’t see anything particularly unusual about what happened here.

          If your argument is that the system doesn’t work – I agree. Merely throwing someone in a cage for a prescribed period of time and then releasing them is not a good way to get to the core issue.

      2. Ron Oertel

        95 percent of people who are incarcerated get released without the services and support needed to make sure they don’t commit additional crimes.

        This type of statement puts all of the responsibility for criminal activity on the back of society, rather than the individual who commits the crime.  (I’ve noticed that this type of belief is at the heart of all socially-progressive advocacy.  Including homelessness and other issues.)

        The people who commit crimes had opportunities before they went down that path, but did not avail themselves of it.  No one in this country is committing crimes to avoid starvation.

        There are programs in place to help those incarcerated, as well as those released (e.g., halfway houses).  If you’re talking about a complete overhaul of those programs, this would require a deep dive (including an analysis of what exists, the costs of adding more services, etc.).

        The results of such a massive endeavor would then need to be analyzed. And no doubt, a significant number of convicts would re-offend, regardless.

        Another aspect of this type of advocacy results in excessive “freedom” for individuals, rather than restricting or otherwise requiring them to behave in a manner which does not negatively impact others.

  2. David Greenwald

    Individual agency versus systemic problem

    If an individual commits a crime, serves a prison sentence, and goes out and commits another crime, they have individual responsibility for their actions.  They go back to custody and serve another sentence for their individual crime.

    But if we have a system where 70 percent of those who are released from prison go out and commit another crime, we also have a systemic problem that is not solved simply by reincarcerating the individual and the society should examine what it can do to make people more successful post-release.

    1. Ron Oertel

      I agree, except for the fact that the vast majority of people in this country aren’t committing significant crimes in the first place.

      And everyone (including those who nevertheless choose to harm others) have quite a few opportunities in this country.  (One only has to look at how successful most immigrants are, within a few years of their arrival in this country.)

      So if you include the entire population in your figures, it’s a relatively small percentage of people who are harming others.

      I’d look at what other, more “successful” countries are doing.  (Then again, they might not have the same type of underlying problems that this country experiences.)

      But yeah – count me “in”, if there’s a realistic way to improve the system for all.

      Or, we could just wait for convicts to “age out” of the period in which they commit the most crime, on average. And while they’re there, improve the opportunities that they have.

      Ultimately, I don’t believe that cruelty (even to those who commit significant crimes) accomplishes anything positive. But locking people up (in-and-of-itself) is not cruelty. And we know that while they’re in there, they’re generally not harming others (other than the other convicts – which is also unacceptable).

      What a waste, in that we know that just about everyone has something positive to offer.

    2. Bill Marshall

      I’m guessing you reject the principles of “bad apples”, “evil”, “non-redemptive”, and believe society should be “God” or “fairy godmother”, and “solve” all problems (and are “failures” if they don’t)… good luck in those beliefs…

      I feel no guilt for Juan Corona, Dorothea Puente, Charles Manson… I did/do not (as a member of society) have the moral/ethical RESPONSIBILITY to “fix” their troubles… only to protect myself from their behaviors… and help those who want/need help…

      “Accountability”?  Really?  You and family lived in SLO… was it your failure re:  Scott Peterson?  Mine?  Society’s?

      We’ll have to ‘agree to disagree’, of whether the individuals, or ‘society’ bear responsibilities…


      1. David Greenwald

        There are a small number of truly bad people who for the safety of society need to be locked away for the rest of their lives. But that shouldn’t be driving the policy for the rest of the population.

        1. Bill Marshall

          But that shouldn’t be driving the policy for the rest of the population.

          Looks like we do have common ground, above, case by case… context… circumstances…

          … rather that 95 percent of people who are incarcerated get released without the services and support needed to make sure they don’t commit additional crimes.

          is not helpful in finding that common ground… not even remotely convinced that any “services and support” will “make sure” of anything… to think it can, in all cases, is a call for pouring huge $$$ into a ‘sink-hole’…

          There certainly are situations where “services and support” may have positive outcomes… what %-age is beyond my pay-grade, and I suspect, yours.

  3. Ron Oertel

    He added, “We have an opportunity to stop building prisons and start building more public universities.

    Hilarious.  There’s plenty of colleges and universities.  Enrollment at community colleges in particular has been dropping like a rock, despite the fact they’re ubiquitous across the entire state.

    This is an example where (for whatever reason), some folks choose to not avail themselves of existing opportunities. And frankly, some of the best opportunities are not to be found via academia – exactly the type of programs that community colleges offer, in addition to the same courses offered at 4-year universities for those who subsequently choose that path.

    This type of comment does not inspire me to believe in what the “reformers” are pushing as an alternative.

  4. Ron Oertel

    He said, “We cannot continue to live in gated communities and somehow believe that that is going to insulate us and somehow make us safer.”

    Actually, you can – as long as the state’s tentacles don’t start reaching into there, as well.  🙂

    The more wealthy one is, the more options available to you to avoid problems.  (Though it has reached places like Beverly Hills, lately.)

    In fact, you don’t even need to be wealthy to escape these problems.  Plenty of places where you can live to avoid the type of crime found in Los Angeles, etc.

  5. Bill Marshall


    With Recall Effort Failing, Gascón Turns to What He Was Elected to Do

    Gascon should never have veered from what he was elected to do…   that would be the mark of a professional… and a person who has high ethics, morals…

    Raises some questions, if he did not… “professional attorney, or professional politician?” is one of those…

    Same questions arise with the new SF DA, Boudin, Reisig, etc…

    Same questions apply to any “elected”, or those seeking election… used to be “service” at the local level, rather than “servicing” (Ag referent intended)…

  6. Keith Olson

    Gascon’s L.A.

    “Video surveillance from the store showed the looters fanning out across the store and grabbing all the snacks, drinks, cigarettes, lotto tickets and other merchandise,” the LAPD said in a statement.
    “Looters also vandalized the store and threw merchandise at employees.”
    The LAPD has been warning the public about both sideshows and “smash-and-grab” shoplifting since last year, when groups of people rushed into a series of retailers and grabbed goods.
    “Flash mobs have turned from fun spontaneous events to opportunistic criminal occurrences,” the LAPD said this week.

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