By design, criminal justice system deliberately targets our poor and working class communities that are black, brown, immigrant and other marginalized identities. This platform seeks to address the “tough on crime” mentality our elected officials have embraced for generations — judges have much discretionary power in our courts and and are the ultimate decision-makers when it comes to a person’s fate in our criminal justice system. The next judicial elections will happen in 2021, and as people who have a stake in electing candidates that believe in real justice, safety, and dignity, we hold the following demands to be necessary changes to our judicial system:
● Bail is a pre-trial system that must be abolished and not replaced with open-air surveillance, as it does not make anyone safer and reinforces racist and classist trends about who can and cannot be free. We believe that bail must be eliminated as a pre-trial holding measure in our courts. However, we are also skeptical of systems like risk assessment or electronic monitoring, which often lean on the same racist narratives about who is safe to return to society and who isn’t.
● “Don’t stand in the way of justice” – The voice of the people has demonstrated that we must end mass incarceration. Philadelphia’s crime rates have steadily decreased and our jail population has plummeted yet we are seeing many judges, remnants of a “tough on crime” mentality, who are actively trying to block our agenda of justice and fairness. We call on judges to follow DA recommendations, made in collaboration with the defendant, that are fair and just.
● Rehabilitation, not Retribution – we believe our system must work to provide sentences that aim to rehabilitate people involved the justice system, instead of retributive punishment. This means:
○ Respecting the dignity and humanity of defendants during sentencing
○ Utilizing diversion programs to avoid jail time
○ Recognizing and addressing the effects of over-sentencing on recidivism and rehabilitation
● Probation/Parole Reform – one of the largest drivers of our jail population is parole and probation violations. The conditions for probation and parole are oftentimes extremely restrictive, leading to many people being sent to jail for technical violations. APPD must be held accountable to a standard of fairness and not abuse their position to send people to jail, and judges must do their part in not recommending extreme probation or parole terms or sending people to prison for harmless violations.
● Get ICE Out of Courts – Immigration enforcement actions in and around courthouses create an atmosphere of fear that deter immigrants from accessing our justice system. Judges should adopt policies that prevent court and probation staff from sharing information with ICE and limit ICE’s ability to question and arrest people at the courts.
● Decriminalization of Sex Work and Drug Use – We believe that the criminalization of sex work and drug use has directly contributed to the overwhelming health burden and chaos surrounding these human activities in our communities. We must rigorously examine preconceptions and presumptions driving existing policies which have resulted in the generational increase in our prison population as well as the negative health outcomes and social stigma produced, to no measurable social benefit. We also would provide support to those who engage in these activities, including women and LGBTQIA+ folks, as well as those ready for change. For these reasons and more, we advocate for the decriminalization of sex work and drug use.
● Make Philadelphia a Model for Fairness – Mayor Kenney has committed to our jail population being reduced by 50% by 2020. This, along with Larry Krasner’s administration, and the MacArthur Grant Challenge, poises Philadelphia to be the model city when it comes to criminal justice reform. Judges, while interpreters of the law, are also elected officials. They must take into the consideration the will of the people and cultural shift on the role and use of incarceration. We must redefine what is “justice” and what are “good outcomes” when crimes are committed.
● Contextualize existing criminal justice data and Transparency around Policy – Use responsible evidence based practices. Move away from utilizing arrest and recidivism rates to guide sentencing and practices that reproduce racism, sexism, and other oppressive structures. Incorporate evidence produced by models that have successfully reduced harm from criminalization and incarceration. Commit to pushing the judicial administration to be accountable to transparent policy. Lastly, make a good faith effort to center data produced by those most affected by the criminal justice system.