This month, new Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, who had vowed to reduce prosecutions and increase the conviction rate, downgraded penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana from jail time to community service and fines, says the New York Times. His city, after being criticized for a high murder rate and low conviction rate – seems ready to give Williams a chance. “This is like a breath of fresh air,” said Ellen Greenlee, chief public defender, who described previous district attorney Lynn Abraham's approach to charging suspects as “throw everything against the wall and see what sticks.”
Williams, 43, repeats practiced lines from a justice-reform movement that has taken hold in places like New York, San Diego, and San Francisco and promotes, for lesser offenders, community courts and drug treatment rather than trial and prison. “Crime prevention is more important than crime prosecution,” he said last week as he rode from one event to another. “We need to be smarter on crime instead of just talking tough.” He added: “I've put my money where my mouth is” by redirecting overstretched resources toward a more careful selection of cases and starting a computerized study of prosecutions to see why they so often fail.