By Michele Hanisee
In a devastating investigative series titled “Meth Mayhem,” Fox 11 examined the drug and homeless crisis on L.A. streets, as well as Prop 47’s contribution to that crisis. George Gascón, one of the authors of Prop 47, was given extensive airtime to respond to the series and one of his statements caught our eye.
Gascón insisted during the interview that, “We can’t have person as D.A. who has no clue how to treat drug addiction.” Agreed. Let’s examine Mr. Gascón’s record as DA in San Francisco.
During his tenure as DA, drug addiction soared to the point that San Francisco now has 50% more drug addicts than high school students. Likewise in San Francisco, there has been a decade long increase in meth use, overdose deaths and emergency room visits. The drug addiction problem in San Francisco has risen to the point that just last month the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors declared a public health crisis due to drug overdoses. The open drug use on the subway system has driven law-abiding passengers to watch where they sit and step for fear of being pieced by used hypodermic needles.
Gascón insisted in the interview that in regard to drug addiction “we have to start moving away from a criminal justice solution for something that is a disease.” One of the fallouts from Prop 47 was that by decriminalizing drugs, the drug courts across California had no stick to back-up their carrot. Giving addicts the option of treatment or jail works. Studies have shown those forced into treatment by the courts may stay in treatment longer and experience better outcomes than those not ordered by a court to enter treatment in lieu of incarceration. Because Prop 47 made drug possession an inconsequential misdemeanor with no threat of incarceration, addicts have no reason to choose treatment when they can simply sign a citation instead. Allowing a person whose entire thought-process has been hijacked by drugs to make their own decisions about getting into rehabilitation is not respectful — it is neglect and abandonment.
Gascón is actively campaigning for the job of District Attorney of Los Angeles. But it does not escape our notice that in his seven years as DA in San Francisco the drug addiction problem went from bad to worse with no solutions from Gascón. Instead, as one commentator summed up the San Francisco problem, the lax enforcement against drug abuse in the City, combined with political choices that tolerate drug abuse, has led San Francisco to have a substantial drug abuse problem that is “substantial and is proportionally much larger than that of perhaps all other major US cities.”
By Gascón’s own criteria, he should not be the District Attorney of Los Angeles County.
Michele Hanisee is President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys, the collective bargaining agent representing nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles.