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Defendants and criminal defense attorneys will welcome reforms

The attorney recently elected district attorney of Philadelphia County is keeping the promises he made during the campaign. Larry Krasner, a Pennsylvania criminal defense and civil rights attorney, promised reform of the system and a battle against mass incarceration. He started his tenure by firing 31 attorneys in the District Attorney's office shortly after taking over. He followed by directing his assistants not to accept charges of marijuana possession and other selected charges.

The number of prostitution arrests under Krasner will be reduced drastically, and repeat offenders will be referred to rehabilitation programs. With steep sentences for repeat offenders, the Philadelphia Police Department made 5,650 arrests for prostitution between 2010 and 2015. To greatly lower the incarceration rates, Krasner ordered his staff to charge retail theft only as a summary offense, similar to a traffic ticket in that it is punished by a fine and requires no bail pending disposition.

Krasner is working to divert many of the persons accused of crime into programs stressing therapy and rehab services without suffering a conviction. He is accentuating more plea negotiations for lesser sentences and more alternative sentences such as house arrest and probation. Krasner points to the United States having the highest rate of incarceration in the world. He also cites to the astronomical costs of housing a person in jail for a year, which is conservatively estimated at $42,000 but is probably significantly higher.

In the past few decades the incarceration rate in Pennsylvania has gone up by 700 percent, with Philadelphia having the highest incarceration rate of the country's 10 largest cities. The new District Attorney points out that Philadelphia and Pennsylvania are not safer by the increased rates. The state has been wasting its resources on imprisonment rather than investing in programs that will reduce crime. Krasner's experiment is a remarkable departure from prior law enforcement policies and is one that criminal defense attorneys around the state will welcome. Whether these new policies can set a trend statewide remains to be seen but the prospects for it will be closely anticipated.

Source: atlantablackstar.com, "Why This Philly DA's Memo Is A Game Changer For Criminal Justice Reform", David Love, March 21, 2018

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