Restorative Justice Project Shields Hundreds Arrested in Philly Protests From Prosecution

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Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner will offer a program called Civil Unrest Restorative Response to 80 percent of the cases against roughly 500 people involved in Philadelphia’s uprisings against police violence last year, many of whom had no prior arrests, and were so impoverished virtually that they all qualified for public defenders, and would assuredly be unable to pay restitution, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. The initiative will be Philadelphia’s first attempt at a restorative model for adult offenders.

Krasner said a creative response was warranted given the unique motivation of the crimes: “an outcry” during a historic moment of protest against the police killing of George Floyd. The program, proposed by defense lawyers, including the Defender Association of Philadelphia and Up Against the Law Legal Collective,  consists of restorative-justice education sessions, needs assessments, referrals to education and job opportunities, restorative circles, where defendants, businesspeople, and community members will be able to voice the harm they experienced and what is needed to repair it and, for those who don’t buy into the restorative-justice model, community-service obligations. More than 900 businesses were damaged or burglarized in the unrest in May and June, by the city’s count; about 250 suffered similar losses in October after the police shooting of Walter Wallace Jr. in West Philadelphia. The city and the Merchants Fund distributed more than $1.5 million in grants to 186 affected businesses. In March, the city and PIDC awarded a second round of grants, totaling $12 million, to 914 restaurants and gyms affected by the pandemic, including 71 damaged due to unrest.

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