Recommendation for District Attorney Endorsement

The Primary Election season is coming up and it’s time for Philly Neighborhood Networks to start making endorsements.  Our first endorsement will be in the District Attorney’s race.  Our endorsement process includes obtaining the Questionnaires from the candidates, interviewing them, and considering their public records.  Based upon a review of all this information, our Steering Committee strongly recommends that Philly Neighborhood Networks endorse Larry Krasner for District Attorney. 

PLEASE READ ON FOR THE REASONS FOR OUR RECOMMENDATION

Because of Larry Krasner’s bold leadership, record of enacted reforms and commitment to further reforms, our Steering Committee believes that he clearly deserves re-election as District Attorney.  When Krasner ran four years ago, he promised to roll back the destructive, failed practices that ballooned incarceration yet failed to keep the community safe.  Krasner has kept those promises by decreasing mass incarceration, changing the cash bail policy, promoting accountability of police officers for their actions, ending the abusive civil asset forfeiture practice, ending cooperation with ICE to identify and hold undocumented immigrants, and using more diversionary programs in lieu of prosecution. 

And Krasner is committed to further progress on all these initiatives in his next term as DA by prioritizing the expansion of diversionary opportunities, pushing public health solutions to gun violence and ending overly punitive sentencing.  In addition, he will work to reduce the number of homicides in the city while expanding support for victims of crime and restorative justice for juveniles.  We believe he has the commitment and ability to accomplish these goals and make the criminal justice system more fair and equitable for all.

Mass incarceration cannot be rolled back in four years, but under Krasner the District Attorney’s Office has made major strides by choosing not to bring charges for non-serious offenses (like marijuana possession, prostitution, and crimes of poverty), increasing the use of diversionary programs (mental health or drug treatment in lieu of incarceration), ending the practice of overcharging (piling on more serious charges), and choosing not to incarcerate people for technical violations of probation/parole.  As a result, his office has reduced the future years people will spend under supervision by nearly 80,000, has cut future years of incarceration by over 18,000, and thereby helped to safely reduce the jail population to lows not seen since 1985. More still needs to be done, but this is a good start, and we believe he will continue to make progress on reducing incarceration.

At the same time, Larry Krasner is focusing his staff on the 6% of offenders that commit 60% of the serious crimes in Philly and the DA’s Office is aggressively prosecuting homicides and gun related crimes. Just before the pandemic effectively closed Philly courts, the conviction rate for gun violence was 85% – as high as it has ever been in five years. However, since 80% of shooting cases do not result in arrests there are too many shooters still on the street.  Homicides were up all around the country last year and Philadelphia is no exception. Krasner realizes that prosecutions alone cannot address the underlying causes of these homicides and that is why he is also committed to elevating public health solutions to gun violence — such as increased funding of violence interruption programs, and support for investments in the hardest hit communities to provide trauma counseling, educational opportunities and job development – programs to stop gun violence before it happens. 

Larry Krasner has also been an innovator.  He started the Conviction Integrity Unit that so far has exonerated 17 wrongfully convicted individuals. He put more resources into the data lab which publishes crime and community statistics, thereby improving the DA office’s public transparency.  He also took a bold step for a DA by filing a Pennsylvania lawsuit against the pharmaceutical companies that pushed doctors to oversubscribe highly addictive pills. 

While he was not able to eliminate cash bail entirely (because the legislature would have to pass a new law on pre-trial release in order to completely eliminate cash bail), he has changed the DA’s policy on its use: The DA no longer asks for cash bail in petty cases where public safety is not at issue; where the accused poses a serious danger to the community however, the DA now requests the highest bail of close to $1 million to keep dangerous people off the street. In his next term, Krasner plans to work with legislators to eliminate money bail entirely and instead expand options for pre-release with conditions. 

If re-elected, Krasner will continue to expand diversionary programs by developing new ones that can be run in-house with social workers and public health experts that target higher risk individuals who can benefit from intensive support. Equally important, Krasner will expand support for victims – he will provide service to all victims of gun violence, even if police never make an arrest; place social workers at intake for all sexual assault cases; and place prosecutors and social workers in communities most impacted by violence. 

We have also looked at the questionnaire of Krasner’s opponent, Carlos Vega, and interviewed him. Although he has some interesting ideas, his previous experience as a top prosecutor in the D.A.’s office was unremarkable. In his 35 years as a prosecutor, Vega did not distinguish himself as a leader.  We find no reason to support an unproven new candidate when the incumbent’s record is so strong.

Krasner has made progress on many fronts in the criminal law system and will continue to make a difference on the issues that are crucial to criminal justice. To keep moving in the direction of progressive reform, our Steering Committee recommends that you endorse Larry Krasner to be re-elected as District Attorney of Philadelphia. 

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Margaret Lenzi

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