Tag Archives: Corey Cook

Pulling the Plug- DA Gascon Explains Why He Rejects the Death Penalty

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon discussed his support for Proposition 34, which would repeal the death penalty in California, at USF last Tuesday. According to Gascon, a former death penalty advocate, there is no correlation between capital punishment and reduced homicides.

“When I came to San Francisco we were at 100 homicides a year, now we are at 50. When a person kills another human being, they are not thinking of the death penalty. The death penalty does not make us safer and there is no way of bringing back someone who’s dead,” he said.

Natasha Minsker, manager of the Yes on 34 campaign, also joined Gascon to speak in favor of reforming California’s Three Strikes law, which currently enforces state courts to impose 25 years to life sentences on individuals convicted of three or more serious offenses. Serious offenses include murder, rape, and burglary with an intent to commit a robbery or murder.

The proposition reform, also called Proposition 36, would impose the life sentence only when a new felony conviction is serious or violent, and continues to enforce the life sentence penalty if third strike involved a firearm, or if previous charges were for rape, murder, or child molestation.

Proposition 34 will replace the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole as the maximum punishment for murder in California. This will save California taxpayers $130 million a year. According to Minsker, this proposition will require individuals guilty of murder to work in prison and pay restitution to victims’ families.

That $130 million will make a big difference, Gascon said. “We incarcerate more people than any other nation and, economically, we can’t afford it anymore. We need to put more emphasis on unsolved crimes.” Minsker said that currently 46% of murder and rape crimes goes unsolved in California each year. If Proposition 34 passes, the $130 million annual savings is intended to go toward public safety resources and solving such crimes.

These unsettling statistics are one of the main reasons Gascon and Minsker urge people to vote for the proposition. “If you get nothing else out of this meeting today, please vote,” said Gascon, an advocate of prison reform. “I’ve come to the conclusion that our system is broken.”

Interested in voicing your opinion on the criminal justice system? Gascon suggested looking at the prison realignment referenced in Proposition 36. The proposition states that people who have committed less violent crimes go to county jail with heavy local level supervision, which will reduce incarceration costs. Gascon also suggested checking out the Innocence Project, a public policy organization that aims to bring justice to wrongly convicted individuals through DNA testing and political reform.

He attributed his experience in public safety to his opposition of capital punishment. “I have spent three decades in some of the toughest neighborhoods west of the Mississippi,” said Gascon, who grew up in Bell, California, a Los Angeles suburb, and attended college in Long Beach and Fullerton. “I come from a place where the slim potential of executing an innocent person is enough for me to oppose the death penalty,” he said. Should Proposition 34 pass, current death row inmates will automatically be switched to life in prison without possibility of parole.

Marvin Pascua, a senior politics major, found Gascon’s speech effective. He said: “[In targeting] such areas as cost and moral issues, [the speakers] accomplished their goal of persuading people to vote. I feel that it’s finally time we, as progressive city, try to pass prop 34.”

Politics professor Corey Cook, who moderated the question and answer session, said that the discussion provided even more reasons beyond morality to encourage voting.

“In addition to the philosophical reasons students might have for voting either way on the death penalty abolition or the three strikes amendment, I think the speakers offered numerous pragmatic considerations on cost and utility” he said.

Emily Whetherley, a graduate student studying international development economics, agreed with Cook. “I have been back and forth [about the death penalty] in general,” she said. “I don’t think it’s morally right, and as an economics major, it was interesting to hear the practical reasons and numbers for it.”

Cook is optimistic about the influence that Gascon and Minsker had at the discussion.

“I think the district attorney is a particularly effective spokesperson for these issues, not only as the city’s chief law enforcement officer with a depth of experience, but he’s someone whose own views have evolved,” he said. “I’m not sure it will influence how students will vote, but it might encourage them to get involved and influence others”.

State of the Union Viewing Party Draws Crowd

Last Tuesday, President Barack Obama delivered the much anticipated State of the Union Address, an annual report of the nation’s state of affairs and upcoming agenda. As people tuned in nationwide, students at USF gathered in Parina Lounge for a watch party. The International Studies Program teamed up with the McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good to put on the event, which went on from 5:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m.

During the speech, cameramen from ABC 7 News filmed the event and interviewed Corey Cook, assistant politics professor and director of the McCarthy Center. A cameraman from ABC 7 said that the station was filming local events for the State of the Union address.

In an interview with the Foghorn, Cook stressed the importance for students to watch the address because “this is the most important speech given by the president this year on international and domestic issues. One of the values of USF is to link the curriculum with the real world.”

International Studies Majors Morgan McCloskey and Alisha Herrick attended the viewing party. Both are on the Peer Advisory Board for the International Studies program and offered their opinions on national and international issues.

State of the Union by Sean Culligan

State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama, International Studies Program, McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good, ABC 7 News, Corey Cook, Jamey V. Padojino (Emily Bogden/Foghorn)

In response to Obama’s address, Herrick said, “Obama’s effort to international policies is great because it was damaged in the previous presidency. The removal of troops from the Middle East is commendable, but I would like him to talk about different regions and a broader range of topics.”
McCloskey agreed and said, “to think that domestic laws don’t affect the rest of the world is just naive.”

As Democrats and Republicans sat together on Capitol Hill, the USF community of various majors and backgrounds sat in silence when the speech began. The audience listened attentively, murmuring comments to one another as Obama laid out his plan for the coming year. Amidst with the somber mood in the speech, Obama’s joke about salmon injected laughter into the room.

During the event, the International Studies Program invited the USF community to State of the World, a series of free events which will be taking place on-campus throughout the semester. The first event was a response to the State of the Union address, featuring a panel of Politics Department professors who lead the discussion at Fromm Hall on Feb. 2.

Free pizza and cookies were offered for everyone watching the speech, but all the complimentary food disappeared as quickly as it arrived.
Public Affairs graduate student Angelina Pena said, “Obama covered a lot of current events, especially the Arizona shooting. I’ve always watched the State of the Union addresses though I view the speeches as a stand-off.”

In a response to the issues raised in Obama’s address, Cook said, “The speech was very provocative. There was nothing particularly new. Obama is finding common ground with the Democrats and Republicans asking them to let him raise the idea of an issue, unlike Clinton who tried to poke at the Republicans. Obama is saying to find a commonality.”

To watch the ABC 7 news coverage of the State of the Union address viewing event, visit: http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/politics&id=7919623

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