When he took office in 2020, Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón announced a re-sentencing unit that he said could reduce the terms of up to 30,000 people. Only 95 had been re-sentenced as of last month, reports the Los Angeles Times. Dozens of cases were denied or left pending by Gascón’s re-sentencing team during its first two and a half years of operation. Gascón has said he wants to re-evaluate the cases of many defendants who have served more than 15 years in prison, been tried as adults for crimes committed under the age of 17, or seen their sentences greatly increased by so-called “enhancements,” which add punishment for alleged gang affiliation and other factors.
While supporters say Gascón’s attempts to provide post-conviction relief are a major improvement over the prior administration, the slow pace has drawn a mix of frustration and criticism from defense attorneys and reform advocates who expected more from the “godfather of progressive prosecutors.” Some have expressed concern that constant discord in the office, including two failed recall attempts, has made staff hesitant to take action. “They’re worried about having their names on briefs when someone is released,” said Michael Romano, chair of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s committee on revising the penal code and a former advisor to Gascón, about some prosecutors in the re-sentencing unit. “They’re very concerned about recidivism.” Despite Gascón’s comments about thousands of people needing to be re-sentenced, the unit is still working off an initial list of 400 cases it was asked to review. Of those, prosecutors have sought re-sentencing in 162. The unit declined to pursue another 122 cases, and roughly 100 are still awaiting a decision by the re-sentencing unit or a judge. Of the 95 defendants who have been re-sentenced, many were serving 25 years or more for burglary, robbery, or being a felon in possession of a gun, with enhancements often adding significant time to their prison terms.