Release Date: March 3, 2021
Contact:  Michael Rushford
(916) 446-0345

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In a statement to Fox News on March 2, Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón said, “While a minority of victims want the maximum punishment imposed in their case, research shows these views are not shared by a majority of survivors of violent crime, as most survivors don’t find healing by putting another person in a cage.” He continued, “Additionally, studies show that excessive sentencing practices have exacerbated recidivism leading to more victims of crime.”

According to the Sacramento-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, the only study Gascón cites is an unpublished, non-peer reviewed manuscript, “The Criminal and Labor Market Impacts of Incarceration,” by Michael Mueller-Smith (available at:

It conflicts with multiple published, peer-reviewed studies indicating that tougher sentencing does reduce crime. Publically available data from the U.S. Department of Justice shows that the number of crimes committed during the years that California enacted and enforced tough sentencing for habitual felons, crime rates dropped dramatically. Comparing crimes reported in 1992 with 2011, there were 932,996 (45%) fewer of the seven major crimes, 190,681 (55%) fewer violent crimes, and 2,129 (54%) fewer murders. “That’s almost one million fewer victims when we were enforcing tough sentencing,” said Foundation President Michael Rushford.

Starting in 2011, as California abandoned increased sentences for repeat offenders and reduced the consequences for so-called “low level” theft and drug crimes, violent crime has increased and most property and drug crimes are no longer punished or even reported.

Established crime victims’ groups across the state strongly disagree with Gascón’s statement about victims. Patricia Wenskunas, who founded Crime Survivors, Inc. in 2003, says she has never met any crime victim who supports reducing the sentences for the criminals who preyed upon them. She said that a San Francisco-based group called Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, which is funded by liberal hedge-fund billionaire George Soros, claims to represent the interests of victims, but the policies it advocates are pro-criminal.

Nina Salarno Besselman, Executive Vice President of Crime Victims United, founded in 1990 and the largest victims’ group in the state responded, “I find Gascón’s remarks extremely disrespectful to victims. Almost all victims want to see justice done, which means criminals receive the full sentence provided by law.”

“George Gascón, who has never prosecuted cases, is an advocate for criminals. He is obviously willing to make false and misleading claims to distract the public from his pro-criminal, anti-victim agenda,” said Rushford.

CJLF President Michael Rushford is available for comment at (916) 446-0345