Why Are Philadelphia’s Courts Broken After Decades Of Criticism?


For nearly four decades, investigative reporters have placed Philadelphia’s justice system under intense scrutiny, says the Philadelphia Inquirer. Each time, the verdict has been guilty of a range of judicial ills, yet little seems to have improved as the city’s courts continue to sag under the weight of too many cases, too little funding, and varying levels of dysfunction.

“We do a lot of finger-pointing, but we don’t have a lot of productive interaction between the different stakeholders: the courts, the prosecutors, the defenders, the prisons, and law enforcement,” said William DiMascio of the Pennsylvania Prison Society. “The result is that today you have a court system that is totally clogged, prison systems that really can’t absorb much more, and a legislature where the feeling is to create longer sentences and criminalize more activities.” Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Stewart Greenleaf said, “There is very little successful effort to rehabilitate nonviolent offenders, meaning some of them eventually will become violent. We treat everybody the same, and we need a new model.” Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA), a former Philadelphia district attorney, is holding a hearing Monday on witness intimidation in the city.

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