Inside LADA

June 19, 2019: Spotlight: Prison Crimes Unit

The justice system doesn’t stop holding inmates accountable because they’re behind bars. Nor does it ignore the victims of crime on the premises of a prison – whether they are a visitor, a worker or another inmate.

District Attorney Jackie Lacey created the Prison Crimes Unit within the Parole Division in February to prosecute crimes by inmates.

This is especially important as more inmates are being considered for parole and return to the community.

Hundreds of crimes are committed each year in California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) facilities in Los Angeles County. They can range from minor offenses, such as possession of contraband, to more serious and violent felonies, such as sexual assault and murder.

Head Deputy District Attorney Steven Frankland said filing charges against inmates, even those already serving life sentences, is important for the parole review process. Parole decisions take into account an inmate’s behavior while incarcerated, whether positive or negative.

“It’s imperative that the commissioners sitting on the parole board get an accurate picture of inmates’ conduct while in prison,” Frankland said.

People who continue to commit crimes while incarcerated demonstrate that they may still be a danger to others. They also may hinder their fellow prisoners’ rehabilitation efforts.

To help ensure public safety, the office is dedicating four deputy district attorneys, two investigators and support staff to the specialized unit, based in the Antelope Valley. The unit is led by Deputy-in-Charge Louis Avila Jr.

The Prison Crimes Unit handles all cases originating in facilities run by the CDCR within Los Angeles County, including the state prison in Lancaster; the Department of State Hospitals, Metropolitan, in Norwalk; fire camps; and community re-entry centers.

Previously, these cases were handled by deputy district attorneys assigned to the branch or area office nearest the facility where the crime took place.