On November 3rd, voters in Los Angeles County joined an overwhelming majority of all California voters in striking down the implementation of Prop. 25, which would have eliminated cash bail bonds in the state. The vote in LA County was as lopsided as it was in the rest of the state, with nearly 55% of county voters choosing to retain cash bail and roughly 45% wanting to abolish it. On the same day, those voters chose George Gascon to be their new District Attorney. And what did he do on his first day in office? He announced he was going to ignore the will of LA county voters and work to undermine the cash bail system they voted to retain.
That’s right. Shortly after being sworn in as District Attorney of Los Angeles County, Gascon announced a series of initiatives aimed at circumventing the will of county voters on the issue of cash bail. He stated he was going to instruct his Assistant DAs to stay silent any time a defendant requested lower bail, regardless of what type of crime that person was accused of. He also said that his office would not seek bail for a multitude of felonies. But that’s not all.
He also encouraged anyone currently in jail accused of a crime that falls under his new no-bail guidelines to appeal for release, and stated he won’t contest their release. In effect, Gascon stood up in front of the voters who chose to retain cash bail and said “You’re wrong, I’m right, and that’s that.”
The arrogance of Gascon reminds one of Jerry Brown signing Prop. 25 into law on his way out the door in 2018, despite widespread opposition. Fortunately, voters forced a referendum on Prop. 25 and kicked it to the curb where it belongs on November 3rd. It won't be as easy to undo the damage to the social fabric George Gascon has in mind. But what drives Gascon to adapt such an anti-democratic approach to civil service?
A major part of the no-bail agenda Gascon is forcing on Los Angeles residents is the adoption of a risk assessment algorithm to determine if someone should be held in jail while awaiting their day in court, or released. That computer program was developed in secret by programmers working for John Arnold, a former executive of the infamous Enron Corporation.
After Enron’s ignoble collapse, Arnold used the money he’d made there to start a hedge fund. Eventually, he decided he needed a way to protect his growing fortune so he started the non-profit Arnold Foundation that took bail reform as its reason for being. One of the Arnold Foundation’s signature products was the aforementioned risk assessment algorithm.
Arnold sold the idea of using his risk assessment algorithm to Jerry Brown, Gavin Newsome, George Gascon and others. However, as an adjunct to his speech announcing he would be ignoring voter’s desire to retain the current bail bonding system, Gascon wrote that “risk assessment tools cannot predict what they aim to predict and perpetuate racial bias.” Normally we would applaud the DA for making that statement. But in this case, we can’t because Gascon counts among his closest advisers one Rebecca Neusteter, a former director of criminal justice for the same Arnold Foundation that created the algorithm he seems to be slamming.
It seems logical to conclude that one of two things is going on with the new District Attorney for Los Angeles county. He could just be trying to have his PR cake and eat it too. In this scenario, he announces his intention to undermine the current bail system to placate the radical left. But he also casts aspersions on risk assessment tools in an effort to placate more middle of the road and conservative voters. In other words, he's just spouting classic political double-speak in an effort to cover himself in any eventuality. That is one possibility.
Or, his blatant contradictions could simply be an indication of self-serving political arrogance. In this scenario he just wants to destroy the current voter-supported bail system - even though he has no idea what to replace it with - just so he can add that “accomplishment” to his resume. Remember, as deeply flawed as the plan to replace judges with risk assessment algorithms is, at least it is a plan. Gascon’s intention of releasing everyone without attempting any sort of assessment regarding their risk to society is not a plan at all, it’s a recipe for chaos.
The current political landscape is crawling with characters like George Gascon who believe they know better than the voters they are supposed to represent. There are plenty of them right here in Jefferson County, Arapahoe County, and Denver County. They are part of a political elite that is immune to the ramifications of their social engineering efforts. Given the chance, they will not think twice about tearing apart the social fabric if they think it will benefit them politically to do so. They must not be allowed to succeed.
The drive to stop the scourge of bail reform has little to do with saving the bondsman from the unemployment line and everything to do with preventing a small number of aggressive and unprincipled political hacks from tearing the country apart in an effort to pad their resumes.