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Realignment has affected all branches of the criminal justice system. While sheriffs and probation departments scramble to implement innovate alternatives to incarceration and maximize their jail capacities without adequate funding, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and the courts are also faced with similar challenges. However, some county’s prosecutors are not rising to the challenge, according to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle.

In fact, while San Francisco DA George Gascón supports realignment and is sponsoring legislation to create a sentencing commission; Los Angeles County DA Steve Cooley is training his staff to ensure that as many offenders as possible are sentenced to state prison,” perpetuating the very problem realignment was designed to address. 

With such wide county disparities in prosecutorial approaches to realignment, what stance has the statewide district attorneys association taken? California District Attorneys Association (CDAA) Chief Executive Officer, Scott Thorpe explained:

It goes back to an individual district attorney’s philosophy (and) charging decisions,” he said. There are certain things that obviously disqualify you from realignment, but if you look at a case and say, Here are our charging choices,’ there is discretion and clearly counties will apply it differently. But discretion is only as broad as the evidence.” 

A new CJCJ publication, Ignoring the Evidence: The role of the California District Attorneys Association in California’s prison crisis, however; suggests that the association has historically disregarded the evidence when pursuing its agenda in Sacramento. The publication analyses the association’s promotion of its agenda through its lobbying efforts and legislative recommendations. 

Ignoring the Evidence documents the historical pattern of district attorneys ignoring data-driven research, while promoting politically expedient practices that compromise public safety. You can read the full CJCJ report here.

At such a crucial time in California’s criminal justice history, powerful vested interest groups like CDAA have a responsibility to encourage a balanced approach to criminal justice practice in California. The association should set an example for its individual members that embraces evidence-based best practices, collaboration across all criminal justice agencies, and provides training on alternatives to incarceration at a time when state prison is no longer a feasible option. 

The California District Attorneys Association (CDAA) is one of California’s conservative criminal justice lobby in Sacramento. To read more about this issue, please visit CJCJ’s Interest Groups and Criminal Justice webpage.