BY ANDREW MARK CORKERY – SPIRIT NEWS
Larry Krasner, longtime defense and civil rights attorney, announced his candidacy for Philadelphia District Attorney in early February. Since then, he’s proven to be a clear-cut progressive voice in the Primary race.
Krasner graduated from Stanford Law School in 1987 and began his career as an advocate and defender of indigenous rights, homeless people, and the poor. He lived in Fishtown from 1988- 89 with his wife and started his own law practice in 1993, where he continues his work in criminal defense and civil rights cases.
Since then, Krasner has made his name partly by holding police officers accountable in a number of high-profile cases, including 75 civil rights lawsuits against the police for corruption and physical abuse. He also took on work defending, mostly at no cost, protesters at RNC 2000 and DNC 2016, which generated some national attention.
If elected he would be one of the the first defense attorneys to hold the position of District Attorney in decades. Krasner believes this puts him in a unique position to radically transform the District Attorney’s Office.
“For years we have followed this formula for chest thumping, longer sentence advocating ex-prosecutors who have become DA,” Krasner said. ”Former prosecutors running [the DA’s office] have perpetuated a culture that has become disastrous. On the one hand, it’s totally unjust because of mass incarceration, and on the other hand, it clearly has not made us safe. So you need an outsider to come in and fundamentally change the system.”
Krasner’s policy platform focuses on ending a number of what he characterizes as “disastrous” policies. At the top of his agenda is ending mass incarceration, cash bail imprisonment, stop and frisk, and civil asset forfeiture, just to name a few issues.
In relation to mass incarceration specifically, Krasner wants to implement a “de-incarceration policy.” “For example, the United States Supreme Court has said that juveniles that have been given life sentences as juveniles must be resentenced,” Krasner said. “And there is a very large number of juveniles in Philadelphia who must be resentenced by the next DA that comes into office. The Seth Williams [former DA] approach was to offer them all 35 years, a cookie-cutter approach.”
He added: “This makes no sense… If you are going to be a DA that believes in ending mass incarceration, it means you believe in looking carefully at who really needs the tough sentences based on their actions, and the ones who should have their sentences greatly reduced. Look at all the cases and the entire record of each person.”
Krasner has advocated for a staunch rejection of “the failed War on Drugs” that has predominantly affected racially and economically disenfranchised communities. In response to communities like Kensington and its longstanding drug woes, Krasner would impose a “treat addiction as medical problem, not a crime” policy.
“When you work in civil rights and as a criminal defense lawyer, you have conversations with people the prosecutors don’t have. And some people in poverty who I have represented have been telling me for years about how they developed their addictions,” Krasner said. “Through that, I have come to understand how they got there and what mistakes were made. And at every level, including with the drug companies [and overprescription], there are improvements that need to be made.”
Krasner has had a number of events in the Riverwards during the course of the campaign. Some citywide organizations with local connections have been taking notice. Reclaim Philadelphia, a citywide progressive policy advocacy organization with local ties in Northern Liberties and Fishtown, has been canvassing for Krasner in the run up to the election.
Spirit News caught up with Jason Donahoe and Dominic Falcone, two former Bernie Sanders volunteers and Reclaim volunteers who live in the Northern Liberties. They see Krasner as their choice for the Riverwards.
“People want change, especially with the reputation this city government has with corruption and money passing hands,” Donahoe said. “So I think Krasner’s platform definitely can resolve a lot of the cynicism people have about city politics in Philadelphia.”