Do you support ending the use of cash bail in Philadelphia, and for which people accused of what kinds of crimes? If so, what would be the timeline for these reforms?
I believe we very much need to reform our bail system. It is terrible that so many of those accused of non-violent crimes sit in jail because they cannot meet bail requirements. I will bring in experts in the first 100 days to offer an assessment of our bail system, and instruct DAs to work within their power to make bail recommendations that reduce the number of non-violent offenders who sit in jail because of inability to make bail.
The MacArthur grant received by the city of Philadelphia has a goal of reducing the population in jail by 33 percent within three years. Are you committed to this goal? What is your plan to achieve this goal?
I am strongly committed to reducing the prison population. I believe that my “First Contact/First Felony” program will help divert large numbers of offenders away from the prison system and instead work with programs to give back to communities and stop the cycle of recidivism. I also believe that the precedent the office has created to seek maximum penalties must be changed. I will advocate for more resources to our units to ensure that DAs have the time they need to fairly assess cases and work to ensure that punishments fit the crimes.
Will you decline to prosecute low-level offenses committed by people who pose no harm or threat to the community?
I believe that this must be examined on a case by case basis. I will continue the Mayor’’s policy not to prosecute low level drug offenses. Through my “First Contact/First Felony” program, we will work with first time offenders to divert them to programs that avoid convictions.
The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association often lobbies for tough-on-crime laws in the state legislature. As the Philadelphia district attorney, how would you attempt to influence the association’s agenda?
As the District Attorney for the largest city and county in the Commonwealth, the Philadelphia DA can wield enormous influence in the Association. I will advocate strongly for other District Attorneys to follow the lead of Philadelphia and adopt policies akin to those of sanctuary cities so that our immigrant communities will feel safe and trust our law enforcement. Furthermore, I will work to further a more progressive agenda that prioritizes diversion and rehabilitation of prison. I will also attempt to move the association to lobby against mandatory minimums and give judges and prosecutors more discretion.
Currently, people of color make up over 70 percent of the city’s jail population, though they only account for 54 percent of Philadelphia’s population overall. What steps would you take to reduce these disparities?
On day one I will institute mandatory, comprehensive implicit bias training to everyone in the District Attorney’s office. I believe that by identifying, naming, and discussing these baises we can begin to eliminate how they affect when and how our prosecutors charge and try cases. I also believe in ensuring that diversity within the office is necessary to ensure that we charge and prosecute offenses fairly and holistically. There is nothing more important than an understanding of these communities and the circumstances around offenses to the fair adjudication of them.
Would you agree to appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate shootings involving police officers?
I would treat each of these incidents on a case by case basis. I do not believe it is appropriate to issue a broad decree that the District Attorney is passing the buck in these cases. However, I understand that there may be certain instances where an independent prosecutor will serve the interests of the case better than the office itself.
Would you agree to make all policies of the district attorney publicly available on the office’s website, including those regarding charging and plea bargaining decisions, and would you agree to post quarterly data regarding all critical decisions made by the DA’s office, including charging, pre-trial recommendations, plea bargains and sentencing recommendations, including demographic information?
Yes, I believe that greater transparency makes for better government.
civil asset forfeiture
A 2015 study of civil asset forfeiture in Philadelphia found that almost one-third of cash forfeiture cases involve money owned by people who have not been found guilty of a crime – about 1,500 Philadelphians each year. Will you adopt a policy requiring a criminal conviction before forfeiting property? If not, would you agree not to pursue forfeitures of property less than $5,000?
I believe we need to reform our civil asset forfeiture system quickly and meaningfully. The intent of this system is to allow law enforcement to stop criminals from using and profiting from assets and allow law enforcement to do their jobs to the best of their ability. This system has been taken advantage of in recent years and is now a detriment to our city. We should not be seizing the property of grandmothers because their grandson sold a little bit of marijuana on the porch. We will institute strict and meaningful oversight on the use of civil asset forfeiture and will only use it when it is needed to ensure the safety of a community and prevent the furtherance of crimes.
Would you be willing to commit to not pursuing the death penalty during your tenure in office?
Yes. I firmly support the moratorium on the death penalty and will not pursue the death penalty.