California crime victims advocate says DA George Gascon is ‘supporting’ criminals with new directive

Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon recently disbanded the ‘Lifer Unit’

An advocate for crime victims in California says that Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon is “supporting offenders and criminals” with a recent directive.

Her comments come after sources told Fox News that the Parole Unit, which is also called the “Lifer Unit,” is set to be disbanded by the end of 2022. The office is focused on notifying victims and their family members of information relating to their assailant’s parole hearings.

Gascon’s office said in a statement to Fox News that the notifications can be “triggering” to victims and stating that it takes away resources from the district attorney’s office. He also said that the notifications should be a responsibility of the California Department of Corrections.

“While a victim has a right to be notified, they also have a right NOT to be contacted,” Gascon’s office said. “Lawyers in the parole unit have been using Victim Service Representatives, paralegals, and Bureau of Investigation resources to contact victims and their next of kin who have not requested to be notified of parole hearings.” 

Gascon’s office also said that attorneys in the unit are “needed in line operations to prosecute cases as we are greatly understaffed.” 

Patricia Wenskunas, founder and CEO of Crime Survivors Inc., a California-based organization focused on helping victims of violent crime and their family members, friends, and loved ones, told Fox News Digital that the move is “shocking.”

“It’s shocking to me that one individual that’s supposed to be the district attorney, not the public defenders, the district attorney is supposed to be there to support victims, to provide, you know, balance the scales of justice, to provide support and guidance, to be able to abide by the law. And he’s not even willing to do that. And in all honesty, is revictimizing victims and their loved ones,” Wenskunas said. 

Wenskunas added that it doesn’t seem like Gascon is being “rational” and said he’s not helping victims.

“It doesn’t seem like [Gascon is] rational. It doesn’t seem like he’s even realizing because I think he thinks that he’s playing into his supporters and followers,” Wenskunas said. “He’s going against every grain of support that the victims deserve and should have. And he’s supporting offenders and criminals.”

Wenskunas said that she hopes Gascon’s successor, if the campaign to recall him is successful, is supportive of the victims of crime.

“And I would anticipate that whoever is going to replace Gascon eventually will support victims of crime, because unfortunately Gascon is not,” she said.

Deputy District Attorney Julianne Walker criticized Gascon for disbanding the unit, telling Fox News that Victim Service Representatives “are not lawyers and do not understand the legalities of the parole hearing.” 

“Their skills are providing emotional support and services,” Walker said. “Gascon continually puts forth ‘services’ as if he is protecting their ‘rights.’ He is not. He is abandoning their constitutional rights and thinks a band-aid of some type of service like counseling will make up for his refusal to protect their rights.”  

The Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder announced that it has completed a random sampling for the verification of district attorney recall petitions, and will proceed with a “full check of all signatures submitted.”