Los Angeles, CA – Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon’s office will soon stop notifying crime victims and their families about upcoming parole hearings pertaining to their cases.
The embattled district attorney claimed he decided to disband the Parole Unit – a group of prosecutors and victim advocates who contact victims and their families about upcoming hearings – and that he was doing so for the victims’ own good, FOX News reported.
Gascon reasoned that hearing about their assailants’ pending hearings can be “triggering” for victims and their families, and that it was best to stop contacting them altogether.
“While a victim has a right to be notified, they also have a right NOT to be contacted,” Gascon’s office said in a statement to FOX News. “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.”
Gascon said his office is also very understaffed and that he needs the prosecutors currently assigned to the Parole Unit to prosecute cases instead.
The district attorney said that making victim notifications isn’t actually his office’s problem and that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is the agency responsible for carrying out those tasks, FOX News reported.
He noted his office’s Victims Services Representatives will still be around for victims and their families to reach out to.
But according to Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Julianne Walker, those representatives are not attorneys and “do not understand the legalities of the parole hearing,” FOX News reported.
“Their skills are providing emotional support and services,” Walker explained. “Gascon continually puts forth ‘services’ as if he is protecting their ‘rights.’ He is not. He is abandoning their 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, who works in the soon-to-be-disbanded unit, said it is “very rare that people tell us they do not want to be informed” about upcoming parole hearings, the New York Post reported.
She further noted that a vast majority of the cases the unit handles pertain to “victims of gun violence.”
Many victims and families assume the offenders involved in their cases will remain in prison to actually serve out their life sentences, but that’s rarely the case, Walker said.
“Changes in the law, done without victims, families and really the entire public’s knowledge have allowed for early parole dates,” she said, according to the New York Post.
Gascon, who is currently facing his second recall effort, has already banned prosecutors from attending parole hearings or arguing against an inmate’s release.
“The role of a prosecutor and their access to information ends at sentencing,” Gascon’s special advisor, Alex Bastian, told the Los Angeles Times last year. “The parole board, however, has all the pertinent facts and evaluations at their disposal, including how someone has conducted themselves over the last few decades in prison.”
Gascon’s policy essentially abandons victims and their families, who are left without an advocate once a conviction is secured, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“Letting a victim or a victim’s family member be at a parole hearing by themselves is just plain cruel,” Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami told the paper. “Gascon is completely abandoning his job.”
“We all know the parole board doesn’t always get it right,” Hatami added. “It’s not even close.”
Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney John Lewin said Gascon has progressively been making it more and more difficult for victims and their families to stay up-to-date on the status of their offenders’ cases, FOX News reported.
“What Gascon wants to do is he wants to make it so that not only 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,” Lewin said. “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.”
Gascon said his office’s Parole Unit will be disbanded by the end of the year, FOX News reported.