A district attorney is the top elected official in charge of all the prosecutors in a district, which in this case is all of Philadelphia. The district attorney establishes policies that determine who staff prosecutors will charge with crimes, whether they seek to hold people in jail pending the outcome of their case, and how long a prison sentence to recommend for a person who pleads guilty or is convicted of a crime. A district attorney is also often personally involved in decisions about the death penalty or whether to bring charges against police officers who injure or kill civilians. Finally, district attorneys are often seen as leaders in the law enforcement community and can have great influence over the policies of police departments and laws passed by the state legislature.
The decisions made by Philadelphia’s district attorney will have a greater impact on Philadelphia’s neighborhoods than decisions made by any state or federal officials. A district attorney committed to solving problems and reducing incarceration can start to help repair the damage in our communities caused by overincarceration. A district attorney committed to listening to and improving the safety of Philadelphia can also stand up to federal overreach.
The pool of candidates is large and competitive, and filled with people all vying for your support at the ballot box. As voters, and as part of the #VoteSmartJustice effort, we must demand that in exchange for our support, that candidates commit to using their power responsibly, fairly, and justly. We must ask the candidates questions on where they stand on issues of justice, on issues of fairness, and on issues of power. While we may not agree on every single issue with each candidate, asking these questions presents important opportunities to reveal the type of prosecutor each would be, and sends a message loud and clear that the voters and the people are watching and will take note of your record. Asking these types of questions empowers us as voters to choose the right candidate who would help to restore and strengthen our communities and begin to elevate people who also believe that we are in need of reform and who can join us in the effort to usher in an era of smart justice.