March 16, 2018

Philadelphia's new DA redefines prosecution

Mother Jones -Newly minted Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner was elected on a platform of bringing criminal justice reform to the office and attacking mass incarceration. Now Krasner, a former civil rights attorney, seems to be making good on his promise. He issued a remarkable memo to his assistant DAs that swaps the office’s traditional tough-on-crime approach in favor of one intended both to reduce the number of people in city jail and prisons, and to shorten the duration of their stays.

The memo instructs prosecutors to cease charging certain offenses entirely—including possession of marijuana, regardless of the weight carried, and prostitution in some circumstances. It also encourages assistant DAs to punish people with house arrest, probation, and alternative sentencing much more frequently, and to seek shorter probation sentences. Krasner’s subordinates must now get permission before seeking sentences of more than six months for a minor probation violation, or more than one year for a more serious one.

Krasner’s memo also directs prosecutors to offer plea deals with shorter sentences than suggested by state sentencing guidelines, and to get his permission before offering more-punitive deals—a crucial change, as more than 90 percent of criminal convictions nationwide are the result of a plea.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

These are good changes. I just retired from the practice of law. Too many times prosecutors took the attitude "the longer the sentence, the more accomplished" or "the more sent to jail, the more accomplished" or "the more convictions, the more accomplished."

The cultural mess that has resulted is not just wrong, but unforgivable.