Former San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, is running to replace current Los Angeles County DA Jackie Lacey.

Gascón, a long-time resident of Los Angeles, sat down with Inside the Issues to talk about his decision to run in what The New York Times is saying could be the ‘most important D.A. race’ in the nation.

Gascón lived in Southern California for more than 40 years, raised a family here and worked for the Los Angeles Police Department during his time here. The son of immigrants, he dropped out of high school because he was struggling to learn English and joined the Army.

“I was really struggling in school and I met a counselor one time who said ‘you’re really stupid, you’re not going to go to college…’ That actually facilitated the exit which, at that age, it seemed very attractive, not going to school anyway, and for me it was the Army that actually turned my life around,” he said.

After serving in the Army where he received his high school diploma and started some college, he returned home and got a Bachelor’s degree at California State University, Long Beach.

He eventually began working in San Francisco and found himself traveling back to Los Angeles multiple times a month. When he decided he would not pursue another term as DA in San Francisco and instead move back to Los Angele, people began to inquire whether or not he would consider running in L.A.

“Frankly, initially, it was a little overwhelming but the more that we thought about it we decided it was the right thing to do, come back home and try to do something about the way things are here,” he said about the decision.

After announcing he would run, he released a video that starts off with an experience he had with law enforcement when he was a young man in Los Angeles. He shared how it influenced his approach with the law.

“Growing up as an immigrant kid my community, generally, the police viewed us unfavorably,” he said. “We used to get stopped all the time and it was not unusual for them to, quite frankly, treat us very disrespectfully.”

He and his girlfriend at the time were going out for the evening when they were stopped and made to sit on the sidewalk.

“They basically threw everything out [of the trunk of the car] right out on the sidewalk. They were looking for drugs. They found none and they immediately jumped in their cars and left me there to pick up everything,” he said. “This was the common scene for people who grew up where I grew up.”

His top priorities as the next DA for Los Angeles include reducing the level of incarcerations, especially for young people.

“When you incarcerate young people as adults, you almost guarantee they will begin a journey of no return where all you’re going to do is send people into, what I call, a university of crime, because that’s what our jails and prisons are,” he said.

“I want to be more thoughtful about the way we intervene in the criminal justice system, especially in those early stages when you have very impressionable people whose brain is not fully developed and make sure we provide enough off-ramps for people to a better place.”

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