In public remarks, policy changes, and staffing decisions, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, who campaigned on a pledge to curb mass incarceration, has sought to remake the culture of his agency, if not the system at large, reports Philly.com. He has personally led a national recruiting effort and turned over almost 30 percent of the office’s staff, while unveiling directives that rethink charging decisions, bail requests, and sentencing recommendations. The steps taken by him and his 550 or so staffers have the potential to affect thousands of defendants, victims, advocates, and criminal justice employees across and beyond Philadelphia. City prosecutors last year opened 6,500 fewer cases than the previous year, and half as many as the 73,000 the office filed in 2013.
Kris Henderson of the Amistad Law Project, a public interest law center focusing on sentencing reform and prison abolition, says, “We feel really positively about Mr. Krasner’s first year, even just the re-haul of the attitude of the office.” A few judges have clashed with his office, rejecting plea offers or, in one case, appointing a defense attorney as a special prosecutor. A Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice said his office’s bid to throw out a killer’s death sentence had “no support in the law.” Victims and their relatives have complained about his office resolving cases without notifying them, sometimes in violation of state law. The head of the police union said Krasner is seeking to “destroy criminal justice.” Krasner said that despite an uptick in homicides and shootings, overall violent crime was down even as more people were being let out of jail. “We have challenges ahead, there’s no question about that, and we take them very seriously,” he said. “But what we are seeing in general is that modern policies do not do what our detractors claim: They do not cause crime.”