Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner discussed reforming the city’s criminal justice system during a Thursday afternoon Zoom panel hosted by Temple University Libraries and the Senate Faculty Committee on the status of the color faculty.
The event kicked off the Temple Libraries’ “Chat in the Stacks” series for the spring 2022 semester, which includes panels moderated by Temple faculty discussing hot topics with guest speakers, according to Temple Libraries. . website.
Tara Tripp, a criminal justice professor and member of the color faculty status committee, moderated the discussion, which had about 65 to 70 attendees. Krasner answered questions from Tripp and the audience, sharing his thoughts on topics including the city’s gun violence crisis, victim services, cash bail and crime prevention.
Tripp suggested Krasner as a guest for “Chat in the Stacks” in October 2021 after speaking at his introductory criminal justice class.
When asked how he addresses violence in the city, particularly gun violence among youth, Krasner said his office is talking with criminologists to cultivate possible solutions. Krasner is also advocating for the Philadelphia Police Department to increase its use of forensic science to assess evidence in cases, such as creating a larger lab and updating machinery.
“Forensic science is part of the reason so many innocent people have ended up in jail, and it’s part of the reason there are literally thousands of mothers who have lost to gun violence. in unsolved cases,” Krasner said.
Senior officials from Krasner’s office and Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw’s office meet weekly to assess gun violence arrests and to determine whether evidence is missing in any cases, which is a change her office has made. implemented in 2020 due to increased gun violence throughout the city.
There were 260 non-fatal and 69 fatal shooting victims in Philadelphia as of Feb. 24, according to the Office of the City Controller’s gun violence dashboard.
Krasner and his office work with Northwest Victim Services to provide emotional and legal assistance to victims and witnesses of crime, including providing services to families of those affected by homicides within 45 days.
Krasner also spoke about his opposition to the cash bail system – which he campaigned against in November 2021 – saying it discriminates against defendants facing poverty who may not have the cash immediately available to pay the bail. bail.
“He’s not detaining people who need to be detained, who are wealthy – the Pablo Escobars and the Harvey Weinsteins of the world – but he’s also detaining people who shouldn’t be there, but who are there because their true crime is just poverty,” Krasner said.
He admires the Washington DC system, where only 12% of defendants — those who have committed violent or criminal crimes — are held in pretrial detention. They refer the remaining 88% of people, who have committed less serious offences, to resources such as mental health services and homeless services.
In 2018, the district attorney’s office stopped asking for cash bail for 25 non-violent, low-level offenses, which account for 61% of all cases going through Philadelphia’s criminal justice system, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Since March 2020, the DA’s office has attempted to simulate a cashless bail system to reduce the number of people in jail during the COVID-19 pandemic, Krasner said.
“We carefully kept a spreadsheet of all the cases where there were arrests and charges laid and bail hearings,” Krasner said. “And in all of those cases, we’ve either asked for a very high bail – bail that’s essentially so high you’d expect it to hold someone – or we asked for zero cash bail.”
Krasner’s no-bail policy has shown only modest results, with bail commissioners still charging two-thirds of felony cases that qualify for Krasner’s no-bail policy, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
The Philadelphia Bail Fund has criticized Krasner’s bail policies throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, saying his practices have always disproportionately targeted black Philadelphians and those living in poverty, according to the Philly Bail Fund website.
Krasner also discussed the importance of focusing on crime prevention strategies, rather than convicting as many people as possible.
“If we think holistically about ‘How can we prevent crime in the first place? What kinds of consequences are most likely to prevent future victimization? “I think that’s at least equal to all of our highest obligations as prosecutors,” Krasner said.
Tripp hopes Temple students will learn that there is no single answer to why violent crime exists in the city.
“I’m really passionate about having open conversations and dialogue across multiple disciplines to find a solution to why we are where we are today,” Tripp said.