Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner has spent a lifetime seeking justice as a civil rights attorney, and after being elected last November, promised to completely redesign the current system. Last week, he formalized new policies designed “to end mass incarceration and bring back balance to sentencing.”
According to the Equal Justice Initiative, Philadelphia currently has the highest incarceration rate in the Northeast and an arrest rate double that of other big cities. Despite the over-incarceration, the city is still not safe due to “wasting resources in corrections rather than investing in other measures that reduce crime.”
Krasner rejected the death penalty, stop-and-frisk, cash bail, and other methods used that disproportionately affect black and poor people as a candidate. Three days after he was sworn in, he fired 31 prosecutors who weren’t committed to the changes he hopes to make.
His 300 assistant district attorneys have been directed not to charge possession of marijuana, regardless of weight, and also not to charge sex workers with two or fewer arrests with prostitution. Prosecutors also must now calculate the amount of money a sentence would cost before recommending it to a judge and argue why the cost is justified.
“If you are seeking a sentence of 3 years incarceration, state on the record that the cost to the taxpayer will be $126,000.00 (3 x $42,000.00) if not more and explain why you believe the cost is justified,” wrote Krasner in the memo.
Since January, Krasner has dropped 51 marijuana charges and has been a strong proponent of the mayor’s wishes to be the first U.S. city to open a safe injection site. He’s also suing 10 pharmaceutical companies who have helped fuel the opioid crisis.