Progressive Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon has been accused of further “abandoning” victims’ rights by disbanding a unit that alerts them to their assailants’ parole hearings.
Gascon’s office confirmed to Fox News that it was scrapping the Parole Unit, also known as the “Lifer Unit,” by the end of the year.
The office said its attorneys are “needed in line operations to prosecute cases as we are greatly understaffed” — and even claimed that notifying victims can be “triggering” to them, the Fox report said.
“While a victim has a right to be notified, they also have a right NOT to be contacted,” Gascon’s office told Fox in a statement.
“Lawyers in the parole unit have been using Victim Service Representatives, paralegals, and Bureau of Investigation resources to contact victims and their next of kin who have not requested to be notified of parole hearings.”
However, many of his claims were shot down by deputy district attorneys in his office, including some in the soon-to-be-scrapped unit.
“Gascon continually puts forth ‘services’ as if he is protecting [victims] ‘rights.’ He is not,” said Deputy District Attorney Julianne Walker, who described herself as a “DDA in the soon-to-be disbanded Lifer Unit.”
“He is abandoning [victims’] constitutional rights and thinks a Band-Aid of some type of service like counseling will make up for his refusal to protect their rights.”
Walker said that the vast majority” of cases the unit deals with “are victims of gun violence,” insisting that “it is very rare that people tell us that they do not want to be informed.”
The “traumatized … victims and their families” typically assume “there would never be a parole hearing and the offender would die in prison.
“But changes in the law, done without victims, families and really the entire public’s knowledge have allowed for early parole dates,” she wrote.
“The Gascon administration does not have a trauma-informed approach …
how is it possibly trauma-informed to deny victims and their families current information and the legal expertise of a DDA at the hearing and in preparation of their statements” to contest parole, she asked.
Another L.A. County deputy district attorney, John Lewin, claimed the move was aimed not only at making sure the “next of kin are unaware of these parole hearings, but he wants to make sure that prosecutors and district attorney’s offices don’t hear about them either.”
“When that happens, that means that [Gascon] and his public defender cronies can, in essence, do what they’re doing in the dark, and no one will ever know,” Lewin told Fox.
Gascon has faced escalating blowback from his reforms that critics say prioritize criminals’ rights ahead of victims, with a petition signed by 717,000 people delivered to try to get him recalled.