PHILADELPHIA – The City of Philadelphia, in close collaboration with the Philadelphia Police Department, the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania, the Defender Association of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, and the Philadelphia Prison System, submitted a proposal to the MacArthur Foundation late yesterday under its Safety and Justice Challenge. The proposal consisted of a reform plan, designed by the City and the previously mentioned partners, to reduce the jail population by 34% over three years. If the proposal is successful, the City could be awarded at least $4 million by the MacArthur Foundation to implement the plan.
“The causes of mass incarceration are numerous and complex, so the fact that all our criminal justice partners have come together behind one comprehensive plan to significantly reduce our prison population is a great accomplishment,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “I commend this group for their efforts, and I thank the MacArthur Foundation for their consideration.”
In May of 2015, the City and these partners, operating under Philadelphia’s Criminal Justice Advisory Board (CJAB), was awarded a $150,000 Planning grant from the Foundation to examine the justice system as a whole and to develop these strategies. The proposal submitted yesterday reflects a collaborative and data-driven set of reforms that focus on the jail’s pretrial population and would reduce the jail population, as well as the rate of racial and ethnic disparities, while preserving public safety.
“It’s better to be smart on crime and not just tough on crime, and this MacArthur grant proposal goes a long way to make that a reality in our city,” said R. Seth Williams, Philadelphia District Attorney. “Do we need to make sure we have the right people in prison for the right amount of time? Absolutely, that is a priority, but we also need to address the factors that led to the defendant committing their crime, for example mental health or drug abuse issues. I want people to know that we hear their frustration and we’ll use this proposal to ensure that the victims of crime are made whole, defendants are treated fairly and all of us will redouble our efforts to rebuild the public’s trust in our justice system.”
“Regardless of where you lie on the political spectrum – fiscal conservative or progressive Democrat – we can all agree that our criminal justice system should function better,” said Councilman Curtis Jones, Chair of City Council’s Committee on Public Safety and designee to CJAB. “Through this comprehensive program, we can keep the public safe and reduce our incarcerated population.”
“Our reform measures are the result of a cooperative relationship among our city criminal justice partners — all of whom are aimed at seeking alternatives to incarceration and reducing our overall jail population,” said Judge Margaret Murphy, Administrative Judge – Family Court, and Chair of the Administrative Governing Board for the First Judicial District.
“This is an excellent opportunity for the City of Philadelphia to implement data-driven practices that offer an alternative to pre-trial incarceration and encourage better prison population management and reform,” said Judge Sheila Woods-Skipper, President Judge – Court of Common Pleas. “Our goal is to continue this partnership as a means to improving our city’s overall criminal justice system while balancing the need to ensure public safety.”
“The Police department shares a commitment to collaborative initiatives that identify and reform justice system inequities and support the fair and impartial application of justice in Philadelphia,” said Police Commissioner Richard Ross. The development of this strategic plan to reduce our prisons population is a significant step in the right direction.”
“The Philadelphia Prison System thanks our partners in the Criminal Justice agencies for the tremendous collaborative effort to develop these reforms that will safely reduce the pre-trial population, address racial disparity and allow us to reinvest savings into much needed services,” said Michael R. Resnick, Acting Commissioner of the Philadelphia Prison System. “The MacArthur Grant will allow the City of Philadelphia to explore alternatives to incarceration for individuals whom would benefit from the opportunity to continue to be productive citizens and taxpayers. The potential of this grant will prevent many non-violent detainees from losing their employment, homes and familial ties as they wait in custody for their day in court.”
“This process has made me very optimistic about the shared commitment that all of Philadelphia’s criminal justice stakeholders have in pursuing common goals for criminal justice reform,” said Keir Bradford-Grey, Chief Defender at the Defender Association of Philadelphia. “We are all working together to achieve a level of change that is far beyond the reach of any single agency working alone. I have no doubt we are going to have a meaningful impact as a result of this effort.”