STUDY: Philly’s Progressive DA’s Reforms Helped People, Saved Millions of Dollars

Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner

By Kathryn Wood

PHILADELPHIA, PA – In a new study, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office (DAO) concluded that the DAO’s policy reforms in 2018 and 2019 effectively decreased the number of people on probation and parole in Philadelphia by one third.

Additionally, these reforms lowered periods of probation and parole supervision by a quarter, which in turn, shrank future supervision by two-thirds. Overall, these changes successfully decreased racist disparity gaps.

With these cuts, this generates millions of dollars that can be used toward crime prevention, public safety reform and alternative solutions.

Pennsylvania ranks third as the most over-supervised state. With this, there is an overwhelming amount of people on probation and parole, which accumulates to more people than what the officers are able to supervise.

This effectively prevents officers from concentrating on serious offenders that pose a serious threat to the community. Additionally, prolonged lengths of supervision are correlated with individuals falling into custody again.

District Attorney Larry Krasner said that “we are pushing against mass supervision, the evil twin of mass incarceration, and by every measure we have made substantial progress toward meeting that goal. This is how we build public trust—which also makes us safer.”

Krasner has vowed to “make the criminal justice system fairer, and to make it support public safety rather than harm our communities.”

Out of all of the largest cities in the U.S., Philadelphia is the top city for supervision. In fact, one in every 23 adults was on supervision, an alarmingly high rate.

Tyler Tran, a senior analyst working at the District Attorney’s Transparency Analytics Lab, stated that “instead of being a supportive alternative for people who have not committed serious or violent crimes, community supervision as implemented in Pennsylvania is feeding incarceration, keeping many of our prisons full despite overall crime being at historic lows.

“Overly long sentences can be counterproductive, and are actually linked to more recidivism. Our review of the DAO reforms found there was no increase in crime caused by these policies, as measured by recidivism—suggesting we can and should do more to shrink the system,” Tran adds.

Even though the crime rates have significantly dropped, over-supervision causes individuals to remain in the criminal justice system, because of drug testing and housing requirements. As a result, Pennsylvania has one of the highest supervision rates in the United States.

Vincent Schiraldi, co-director at the Columbia University Justice Lab and former Commissioner of New York City Probation, notes that “District Attorney Krasner recognized early on that probation and parole were expanding mass incarceration in Philadelphia, exacerbating racial inequities while failing to improve public safety.

“Thanks to his decisive action to reduce probation and parole terms, supervision terms and racial and ethnic disparities have all declined, without a rise in re-offenses—a win-win outcome that I applaud District Attorney Krasner and his team for achieving” Schiraldi said.

Councilmember Isaiah Thomas declared that “fewer people on supervision and for shorter, more impactful, periods of time will result in more people exiting the system successfully, and not going back into jails and prisons on technical violations or new crimes. More urgently, the criminal legal system should not be seeking to find and arrest people who have committed no crimes unless it is in service to justice and public safety.”

Thomas introduced a bill that would reduce the number of vehicle stops for minor traffic incidents, a change geared toward addressing racial bias and effectively shedding 300,000 police stops a year.

“We must reduce unnecessary interactions between law enforcement and Black and brown people, and vulnerable people including those with behavior health issues, as we struggle to ensure these interactions do not become violent or end tragically,” Thomas concluded.

Kathryn Wood is a third year at UC Davis, majoring in Political Science-Public Service and minoring in Professional Writing and Environmental Policy Analysis and Planning. She is from Petaluma, California.

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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