Changing the Politics of Mass Incarceration

BY UDI OLFER — IN JUSTICE TODAY

It’s been almost 50 years since President Richard Nixon played the law-and-order card to help him win the presidency. Decades later Donald Trump has adopted the same playbook, telling his own version of the forgotten American who is at the mercy of a crime wave. It didn’t matter that facts didn’t support candidate Trump’s arguments. Politically speaking, it worked.

... Philadelphia  has most recently exemplified this phenomenon. It has a long history of electing politicians who ran on a law-and-order platform. Former Mayor and Police Commissioner Frank Rizzo took pride in being a “tough cop.” Lynne Abraham, elected district attorney of Philadelphia from 1991 to 2010, was called America’s “Deadliest D.A.” by the New York Times because of her zeal for pursuing the death penalty. For reformers living in that era, it would have been impossible to imagine a politician who could win on a criminal justice reform agenda, let alone a politician running to be the city’s top prosecutor.

Yet today, the leading candidate for Philadelphia district attorney is a civil rights lawyer who has never been a prosecutor, and who won the Democratic primary running on a platform centered on criminal justice reform and ending mass incarceration. 

Full article at injusticetoday.com

Larry Krasner, el candidato demócrata a la Fiscalía de Filadelfia

POR EDWIN LÓPEZ MOYA – AL DÍA

El candidato demócrata a la Fiscalía Distrital de Filadelfia habló con AL DÍA News sobre sus planes y metas si resulta elegido en las elecciones generales del próximo 7 de noviembre.

Falta exactamente un mes para que Filadelfia acuda a las urnas con el fin de elegir a nueve jueces de la Corte de Primera Instancia del Condado (Court of Common Pleas), dos para la Corte Municipal, un controlador y un fiscal distrital. 

Uno de los cargos más taquilleros es precisamente el último, dada su notoriedad y porque no en pocos casos ha sido utilizado como trampolín para saltar a la arena política o — en el caso de Seth Williams — a la cárcel. 

Aunque es un outsider en el escenario político local, Larry Krasner se convirtió en el candidato demócrata a la Fiscalía luego de hacer una campaña progresista en la que prometió liderar una revolución al interior de una entidad temida y desprestigiada.

... Krasner habló con AL DÍA News sobre el giro que piensa darle a la Fiscalía si llega a ser elegido; algo que muchos dan por sentado dada la afiliación política de la ciudad.

Artículo entero en AL DÍA
or English version

On the Issues: Who Will be Philadelphia's Next District Attorney?

ONE STEP AWAY

One Step Away is Philadelphia’s first newspaper produced by those without homes for those with homes, with a mission to create jobs and advocate for social change.

A team of One Step Away vendors had the opportunity to sit down with both candidates running for the office ofDistrict Attorney (D.A.) of Philadelphia. In this spring's primary, progressive civil rights and criminal defense attorney, Larry Krasner, won in a hotly contested race for the Democratic nomination, in which he united a diverse coalition of organizations and helped mobilize a historically high voter turnout. Beth Grossman — who served as an Assistant District Attorney for over 20 years under Lynne Abraham and Seth Williams, and has managed the Dangerous Drug Offender Unit and the Public Nuisance Task Force — ran uncontested in the Republican primary.

Philadelphia's next Chief Prosecutor will inherit a crowded prison system, an opioid crisis growing in severity, and an office seeking to regain public trust after former District Attorney Seth Williams was outed on corruption charges.  One Step Away vendors Eric, Tammy, Randall, and Jeff created a list of questions on some of the issues that matter most to us.

What made you decide to run, and what's the first positive change you would make?

Larry Krasner: I decided to run because I looked at the candidates and I did not see hope for real change. I have been in the system — meaning in court four to five days a week, visiting people in jails for thirty years, dealing with people who have every sort of difficulty in life, including mental illness, addition, [and] homelessness; and I feel like real change is absolutely necessary.

So, what would be the first thing I'd do? I would recruit the right people to be prosecutors and fill any openings that may exist. In terms of my policies, I'm very adamant about stopping the pursuit of the death penalty, about ending mass incarceration, about changing civil asset forfeiture so they stop taking grandma's house for what grandkid did or did not do. I'm also adamant about ending cash bail and having a different bail system because I believe cash bail essentially becomes prison for poor people. And then changing a lot of procedures that have resulted in innocent people ending up in jail and guilty people going free.

Selected answers on generocity.org

Read the rest of the cover story by finding a street vendor in a yellow vest, or by visiting Arch Street United Methodist Church, 55 N Broad St, 10am – 1pm Mon, Wed or Fri. 

The last death-penalty case in Philadelphia before a new DA

BY MARC BOOKMAN
FOR THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER

The landscape of capital punishment has changed a great deal in 45 years, but one thing remains the same: A death sentence is still as arbitrary as a bolt of lightning. And as if to prove this axiom yet again, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office is seeking the death penalty against Robert Lark for a murder committed almost 40 years ago.

... Larry Krasner, who handily won the Democratic primary for district attorney and is a favorite to win in November, campaigned on a promise not to seek the death penalty. His website says it all: The death penalty “has cost Pennsylvania taxpayers over $1 billion, yet no one on Pennsylvania’s death row has been put to death involuntarily since 1962. Meanwhile, six people on death row have been exonerated. Philadelphia is the only Northeastern city in which a death sentence is possible.” As Krasner likes to say, “We have to stop lighting money on fire.” Even Krasner’s opponent, Beth Grossman, says, “I wonder whether [the death penalty] is at this point even economically feasible.”

Which brings us to the question: Why is the Philadelphia district attorney seeking the death penalty against Robert Lark?

Full article on PHILLY.COM

Discussion on Women, Poverty & Incarceration (video)

(Video by Eric Gjertsen of Payday)

Mothers, other caregivers, and all women are hit hard by poverty, mass incarceration and cutbacks. A group met on September 28th at the new Crossroads Women’s Center in Germantown to discuss issues related to women, poverty and incarceration with district attorney candidate Larry Krasner.

In this series of six videos, you will hear stories from women and men who have been deeply affected by the criminal justice system and hear them question Larry about his plans for reform should he be elected Philadelphia's next DA.

Watch all six videos in the playlist above or on YouTube:

1. Introduction by Theresa Shoatz; Larry Krasner's opening statement
2. Patricia Vickers, Human Rights Coalition: Incarceration of women heads of family
3. Pat Albright, Global Women's Strike: Criminalization for survival and crimes of poverty
4. Carolyn Hill, Women of Color in the GWS: Loss of custody of children
5. Asantewaa Nkrumah-Ture, Justice 4 Tyree Carroll: Police and electoral corruption
6. Comments and questions from the floor, including:
    Prosecution of prostitution  
    Reviewing questionable convictions
    Opening up old cases with new evidence (PCRA) 
    Women lifers
    Fraud, bias and perjury in Family Court
    Prosecutorial misconduct
    Advocacy and support for victims of crime
    Reopening cases tainted by police corruption
    Adopting out of children by DHS
    Holding judges accountable
    Trauma training for law enforcement personnel
    First thing to do to make a difference as DA
    Protecting Philadelphia as a sanctuary city
    The prison-industrial complex; excessive sentencing
    How to support the campaign; closing statement

The event was hosted by Global Women’s Strike, the Human Rights Coalition, and Women of Color in the Global Women’s Strike. Co-sponsors included Every Mother is a Working Mother NetworkPaydayNational Welfare and Caregivers Working Group. Larry thanks all of these groups and all of those who attended.

The Story Behind America’s Mass Incarceration Experiment

CITED

In the late 1960s, criminologists like Todd Clear predicted America would soon start closing its prisons. They couldn’t have been more wrong.

Today on the show, Dan Denvir from The Dig and Katherine Beckett from the University of Washington Center for Human Rights join Sam to tell the story of mass incarceration in America. We talk to Rutgers criminologist Todd Clear on what we’ve learned from this “grand social experiment,” poet Reginald Dwayne Betts about redemption and violent crime, and Larry Krasner, a progressive lawyer who has shaken up a DA’s race in Philadelphia [at 46:14].

Show page on CITED, with bibliography

Philadelphia Bar Association forum (video)

Krasner: "What we've seen has been a radical experiment in over-prosecution, over-incarceration and systemic racism...we are not safer, and it is not just."

The two candidates for Philadelphia district attorney, Beth Grossman and Larry Krasner, presented their cases at a Community Forum hosted by the Philadelphia Bar Association on Tuesday, Sept. 26, the first of several times they will meet during the fall 2017 general election campaign.

The event was introduced by Chancellor Deborah R. Gross. The moderator was Charles Gibbs, president of the Barristers' Association of Philadelphia.

(58 minutes)

Uncovering Philly law enforcement's secret bank accounts

BY RYAN BRIGGS AND MAX MARIN – CITY & STATE

On a chilly night in 2014, Nassir Geiger left his house an innocent man with a 2000 Buick LeSabre and $580 cash in his pocket – his paycheck for the week. He drove to a nearby McDonald’s for a late-night snack. By the time he returned home the next morning, Philadelphia police would take all that away.

“I was scared,” Geiger recalled. “I had never been to jail before.”

Geiger’s only “crime” had been seeing a familiar face in the Northeast Philly McDonald’s parking lot. As he paused to say hello to a coworker from the city’s Streets Department, he drew the attention of undercover narcotics police. Two plainclothes officers, suspecting the harmless interaction had been a drug deal, followed Geiger on his way home. Brandishing their firearms, they charged his car. After the stop, Geiger watched helplessly as one officer confiscated his wages, while another hopped into his Buick and sped away. 

Full article at CITY & STATE