LOS ANGELES - Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey and her runoff opponent, former San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, are sounding off to FOX 11 regarding their positions on California’s recently enacted emergency $0 cash bail mandate.
The order allows inmates charged with misdemeanors and low-level felonies to be eligible for immediate release from custody, including right after arrests.
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"Obviously as a prosecutor, you worry about the safety of your community, but we’re in a position where you have to make room in the jail," Lacey said. "I’ve supported it because we’ve been doing it this whole time."
Lacey says her office began enforcing zero cash bail in March, weeks before the state’s emergency mandate came down last week.
"We’re carefully vetting and screening those cases to make sure we aren’t letting people out who are a danger to the community," Lacey said.
Lacey’s opponent, George Gascón, also supports zero-bail during the pandemic.
"We need to empty out the jails as much as we can without jeopardizing the safety of our community," Gascón said.
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Gascón told FOX 11, he feels the risk of coronavirus spreading behind bars is a life or death situation.
"As public officials, we have to weigh the pros and cons, we are sworn to protect the public, and you’re not protecting the public when you take some low-level offense and you put people at risk of contracting this horrendous disease or giving it to someone and costing their lives," he said.
For now, Lacey is in charge. Her office oversees which inmates get released in the largest jail system in the country.
"So it’s not that we’re letting people off, what we’re doing is we’re delaying their cases until after we get past this emergency," Lacey said.
FOX 11 asked Lacey what guarantee she has that the suspects will show back up to court.
"You know, that’s going to be the difficult part, I think they have strong incentive to show back up, first of all, you show back up, you’re going to get a better sentence from a judge," she said. "We know that some won’t show up again, and we’ll have to send the police out with a warrant to get them in, we know some will commit new crimes, and that’s how they’ll get back in, it’s a gamble that we’re talking about but we’re doing it in a very educated and well-measured way."
"It’s a balancing act," Gascón said. "I think you have to weigh the consequences of your act, life versus property, the question for me has a really simple answer."
Lacey and Gascon both told FOX 11 they want to get rid of cash bail entirely once the pandemic is over, as they feel it is unfair to the poor, and instead replace it with a case by case risk assessment system.