There’s another article this morning about the problems created by newly elected LA DA George Gascon. In it, Gascon says criticism is “not surprising to me” because “people have benefited from a system that has been impacting communities in so many negative ways without necessarily producing good results because they had a monetary interest. I know there are people in the criminal justice system across the board both in the private and public sectors that have greatly benefited from mass incarceration…”
It’s not clear to me who he’s talking about. But the resistance to Gascon’s orders is being led by line prosecutors. They are the regular people that try cases in Los Angeles County. Deputy District Attorneys have no financial interest in mass incarceration. They do not get a bonus for every conviction they obtain. They are not evaluated for promotion on the number of convictions they obtain. Nor do they benefit from trial convictions. They don’t get money or promotions from long sentences over short sentences. They are promoted (or not) because of their knowledge of the law and their skill at trial presentation. If there were zero state prisoners, they would get the exact same paycheck.
Maybe Gascon’s not to blame. Maybe he just doesn’t know these facts. In that case, he’s off the hook for his appalling remarks. But he’s not off the hook for his appalling ignorance of the office he’s supposed to lead. After all, he should know how his employees are paid.
On the other hand, maybe Gascon does know that his prosecutors have no “financial interest” in mass incarceration. In that case, saying something you know is not true is called lying. Obviously, it’s wrong to lie, particularly when you’re an elected official and you’re lying to the public about your own employees to persuade people that your employees are acting in bad faith. There are layers and layers of bad conduct there. If Gascon knows that his prosecutors have no “financial interest” in mass incarceration, why tell people that they do? To undermine their argument? To silence them? Or, as I said, the most obvious conclusion, to persuade the public that his own employees are arguing in bad faith?