Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon has reportedly rolled out a new ‘restorative justice’ initiative that will enable teenagers who commit such crimes as sexual battery and arson to escape prosecution.
A leaked memo obtained by Fox News reporter Bill Melugin shows that Gascon is expanding a diversion program for juvenile offenders to include more serious crimes. The prosecutor, who was elected last year after getting more than $2.5 million in campaign funding from billionaire George Soros, cited such “qualifying felonies” as burglary, assault and robbery.
NEW: Leaked memo reveals Los Angeles D.A. @GeorgeGascon to implement “restorative justice” pathway that will expand diversion to juveniles arrested for certain felonies including, not limited to:Sexual battery Robbery Arson Grand Theft Person Vehicle theft Assault @FoxNewspic.twitter.com/rSfkIsvTTy
Prosecutors say that under the new policy, a 17-year-old could be spared punishment after following you home, pulling a knife on you, threatening to kill you, and forcibly robbing you, Melugin noted.
Diversion programs are commonly used in the US to allow first-time offenders to avoid prison time and keep their criminal record clean by completing various requirements, such as undergoing treatment and performing community service. In many cases, the suspects are required to enter a guilty plea and admit responsibility, then complete their requirements to avoid having the conviction go on their record. Diversion is typically limited to non-violent offenses, such as drunk driving and marijuana possession.
Gascon last month adopted a broader diversion initiative, modeled after a similar program he implemented when he was DA in San Francisco, partly to reduce “racial disparities” in the criminal justice system. The policy allows suspects aged 13-17 to avoid charges being filed against them if they abide by the terms of a contract with the prosecutor’s office, such as going through mental health or substance abuse treatment and meeting with their victims.
“Our prosecutorial approach should be biased toward keeping youth out of the juvenile justice system, and when they must become involved, our system must employ the lightest touch necessary in order to provide public safety,” he explained in a campaign statement last year.
However, public safety has been deteriorating amid surging crime this year in Los Angeles, (like in many major US cities), just as it did when Gascon was the top prosecutor in San Francisco from 2011 to 2019. The DA has also helped lighten the punishments of then-juveniles who were previously tried and convicted as adults, including gang members who committed murder, allowing them to be resentenced as juveniles. As a result, young felons who were in the middle of long prison terms have been set free.