PHILADELPHIA – Mayor Kenney submitted testimony today to the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing emphasizing the importance of fair sentencing policies in line with the City’s criminal justice reforms. In his testimony, he expressed concern to the Commission about how the use of this risk assessment tool for sentencing could result in over-incarceration and over-supervision, especially for men and boys of color. The Mayor urged the Commission to develop oversight for, and properly evaluate, the proposed Sentence Risk Assessment Instrument, so that it is not used to perpetuate mass incarceration.

The Mayor’s complete testimony can be found below:

Thank you for the opportunity to weigh in again on the proposed Sentence Risk Assessment Instrument.  Today I submit the following testimony.

As I stated in testimony provided to this body on June 1, 2018, I still believe that risk assessment tools can be used fairly and can result in limiting biased sentencing.  When created thoughtfully and audited consistently, this could be another tool for Philadelphia to use as we grapple with righting a criminal justice system that has relied far too heavily on incarceration for far too long.

Further, while I appreciate the Commission changing the definition of recidivism to convictions, and not arrests, concerns remain about the tool and its application for sentencing cases in Philadelphia.

To be clear, I believe that the purpose of the tool should be to help limit incarceration and not result in the over supervision or over-incarceration of Philadelphians, particularly men and boys of color that are disproportionately represented in our criminal justice system.  As it stands, the Commission has not clearly stated that the intention and purpose of the tool is to limit incarceration or supervision, or to mitigate racial disparities. A tool that affects Philadelphians should intentionally include this desired effect.

However, in its current state, the tool may cause the opposite and unintended effect. The tool itself has questionable levels of accuracy, especially as it pertains to those who are labeled as high risk.

I remain deeply concerned about statewide tools, as they tend to disproportionately affect young men of color, who are already overrepresented in Pennsylvania’s criminal justice system, and specifically, in the Department of Corrections’ population – especially those from Philadelphia.  The tool should be able to account for the differences in our Commonwealth’s counties and be applied in consideration of the unique concerns Philadelphia and other large jurisdictions may have.

Also, if implemented, I again urge the Commission to implement independent and consistent oversight and evaluation of the tool and its results to ensure that it is in fact not perpetuating mass incarceration.

Thank you, again, for the opportunity to speak on this issue, and for your time and consideration on a matter that has the potential to deeply affect many of Philadelphia’s communities.”