ISSUES

Protecting everyone’s rights and enhancing neighborhood safety

As District Attorney, Jackie Lacey works everyday to protect our rights and enhance neighborhood safety. She understands firsthand that it’s absolutely critical for all victims’ human rights to be protected, including civil rights, consumer rights, worker rights, immigrant rights, women's rights, and senior rights. DA Lacey recognizes that yesterday’s criminal justice system shouldn’t define tomorrow’s, and strives to protect the community through the fair and ethical pursuit of justice and the safeguarding of crime victim’s rights.  

Enacting critical reforms to better address people with mental illnesses

Recognizing the need for the criminal justice system to better treat people living with mental illness, DA Lacey founded and leads the pioneering Criminal Justice Mental Health Project in LA County, which has set priorities for a comprehensive mental health diversion plan that provides alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders, using input from government agencies and community-based organizations.

 

Their work culminated in the widely acclaimed Report from the Mental Health Advisory Board: Blue Print For Change, which proposed expanding training for law enforcement personnel and adding community-based beds to house and treat individuals with mental illness, particularly those with criminal records. Among other accomplishments, the project secured $150 million in funding from the county, ensured the opening of urgent care centers as an alternative to jail for certain arrestees, and helped create a new county office of diversion and re-entry.

 

Internally, Lacey has re-branded the District Attorney's office to emphasize their role in protecting the community through the fair and ethical pursuit of justice, including revamping hiring and training practices. The DA’s Office now trains hundreds of patrol officers and dispatchers in de-escalation tactics for people undergoing a mental health crisis, and is increasing the number of collaborative courts to divert those who have mental illness, substance abuse, and or post traumatic stress disorder. This training program was recognized by the National Association of Counties in 2017. Lastly, Lacey is in the process of revising the County’s Brady Policy to ensure that prosecutors adhere to their constitutional mandate to ensure a fair trial by providing exculpatory information to the defense.

Working to Replace the Broken Cash Bail System

The existing money bail system is in dire need of reform. It’s absolutely absurd the extent to which our jails are crowded with nonviolent offenders who simply cannot afford their cash bail. According to a 2015 report from the Public Policy Institute of California, more than 62% of county jail inmates are awaiting trials or sentencing, costing slightly more than $178 per inmate per day in LA County. Most remain in jail simply because they can’t afford bail.

 

Prosecutors should support reform that ensures people aren’t punished for being poor, but ensures safety, fairness and justice. That’s why DA Lacey supported California Senate Bill 10, a pioneering law passed in 2018 that drastically reformed the state’s cash bail system by transitioning from our existing system to a pretrial release program that protects public safety while maintaining the liberty of the person accused. This transformational program would maximize public resources, protect victim’s rights, and ensure court appearances continue without disproportionately hurting low-income arrestees.

 

The pretrial release program would quickly evaluate and safely release arrestees, while assuring broad judicial discretion in making detention decisions. It would accomplish this through a non-discriminatory risk assessment tool used for all detained arrestees, which accelerates release for non-serious, non-violent offenders who remain detained before arraignment. DA Lacey believes that this risk assessment tool should be open for public inspection, so that experts and other members of the public can evaluate whether or not the established risk assessment standards are discriminatory. The program would also provide judicial discretion for offenders charged with serious violent offenses, or those with a criminal history, over conditions of their release.

Taking on perpetrators of sexual violence and child abuse

In response to the increased willingness of alleged victims of sexual violence to come forward and the widespread allegations of abuse in the entertainment industry, DA Lacey recently established a task force of veteran sex crimes prosecutors to evaluate these cases for prosecution when they are referred to the DA’s office.

 

Lacey has also taken a special interest in combatting sex trafficking, including establishing a Sex Trafficking Section, which prosecutes criminals engaged in sexually exploiting women and children. In fact, the number of human trafficking charges filed nearly tripled between 2013 and 2014 after Lacey created a special Human Trafficking Unit that focuses on putting pimps behind bars and protecting their victims, instead of charging underage girls with prostitution.

 

Additionally, DA Lacey founded a specialized unit to address the growth in complex child abuse cases that often have no eyewitnesses to explain how the injuries occurred and created the Electronic Suspected Child Abuse Reporting System Unit, which significantly increased the number of report audits completed.

Enhancing efforts to combat environmental crimes

In a time of increasing climate catastrophes, Lacey has been dedicated to prosecuting environmental crimes, most notably by reinvigorating the DA’s Environmental Crimes Division and launching a program that dispatches prosecutors and investigators to industrial incidents involving occupational deaths and environmental threats, designed to enhanced the preservation of evidence during the early stages of an investigation. These units helped yield better quality cases, aiding the prosecution of those who violate environmental laws and helping to hold them accountable.

Banning the Use of Private Prisons

While the expansion of private prisons is not the only problem in California’s often slow-moving criminal justice system, there is something particularly galling about people making money off of increasing the size of our prison population. CEOs and shareholders of private prison companies have an incentive to minimize investments and maximize profits for shareholders, which ultimately results in them cutting corners to lower operating costs, including worse treatment of inmates and worse pay for prison guards.

 

It’s completely contrary to our values, particularly in a state as progressive as California, to have a system structure where people can profit off of mass incarceration, and are incentivized to lock up more people. That’s why I support the Governor and the State Legislature in their effort to ban this backwards and immoral practice in California. Corporate executives and shareholders should not be profiting from putting people in cages, and it’s time to end the archaic and cruel practice of private prisons in California and pass AB 32. Check out my editorial in the LA Times on the subject here.

Protecting seniors and immigrant communities from financial scams

Acknowledging the growing threat of financial scams, DA Lacey has introduced several campaigns that help safeguard vulnerable communities from fraud.

 

Jackie instituted the DA’s bimonthly Fraud Alerts to educate the public about common fraud schemes targeting seniors, including counterfeit drug scams and Medicare rip-offs. This education initiative was recognized by the National Association of Counties in 2017. These alerts were part of a collaborative effort with service organizations to educate seniors about common scams aimed at taking their money, including distributing literature at senior centers, and a public service announcement that runs on county sponsored television.

 

DA Lacey also understands that LA County’s great diversity attracts con artists seeking to manipulate and cheat some of our newest residents out of their hard-earned money, particularly under this administration, and that everyone – regardless of their immigration status – deserves to be protected against crime and to receive justice when they have been victimized.  Consequently, Jackie launched the Notario Fraud Unit, dedicated to prosecuting immigration fraud and the unlicensed practice of law by con artists who often collect high fees from victims without delivering any services. The team conducts public outreach, participates in immigration task forces, drafts legislation to better protect consumers and conducts training for prosecutors, law enforcement personnel and consumer advocates.

Ensuring the fair and ethical pursuit of justice

Understanding firsthand the urgent need to ensure employees at the District Attorney's Office better serve LA County’s diverse population, Jackie ensured that the DA’s Office became the first department in Los Angeles County to provide implicit bias training to employees. The training provides the tools for prosecutors to look inward and evaluate their biases and how they may affect the decisions they make, which directly impact people’s liberty. DA Lacey also created a staff position to advise, teach and advance a better practice of ethics and professional conduct throughout the office.

 

Lacey also worked to modernize the DA’s website, including publishing documents and information on law enforcement use of force cases. Lastly, Jackie created a conviction review unit to review cases in which a claim has been made that the wrong person was punished for a serious crime.  The LA County’s DA office is one of only six offices in the state that has such a unit.

Dedicating more resources to addressing opioid abuse

At a time when prescription pain pills or heroin are driving more than half of drug overdose deaths in the country, DA Lacey has intensified efforts to address those who are illegally supplying opioids, including prosecuting dealers and medical professionals who are illegally distributing prescription pain relievers. 

Expanding efforts to combat cybercrime

Recognizing the growing threat of identity theft and other cybercrime, DA Lacey established two teams of cybercrime experts to address the growing threat of cybercrime. One investigates and prosecutes high tech crimes committed against businesses in LA County, as well as educating local businesses on ways to protect themselves from becoming victims. The other team addresses attacks on county government resources and trains county departments, including their recent work to apprehend defendants who hacked into LA County’s information infrastructure.

Tackling government corruption

DA Lacey has also led efforts to hold public officials accountable under the law, something that is essential to maintaining public trust in government. Most notably in 2014, seven former Bell city officials were sentenced for their roles in the most significant public corruption case prosecuted in Los Angeles County in more than a decade.

Focusing on serious violent or sexual crimes

Violent crime in Los Angeles County continues to be reported at an all-time low and DA Lacey remains committed to maintaining public safety through the prosecution of dangerous criminals.

 

After undergoing a frustrating process where the LA DA’s office unsuccessfully tried to prevent the release of a notorious serial rapist into Los Angeles County following the passage of Prop 36, the DA’s office went to Sacramento and sponsored AB 1607 to change the law. As a result, the next time a sexually violent predator is scheduled for release anywhere in California, the affected county will be notified and given the opportunity to actively participate in the decision-making process.

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