Major Coalition Forms to Demand a Philly District Attorney Committed to Justice and Respect

Prominent community organizations in Philadelphia united today to unveil the Philadelphia Coalition for a Just District Attorney. Comprised of a broad and diverse set of groups representing many tens of thousands of Philadelphia voters and communities, the new coalition announced their commitment to hold all the District Attorney candidates accountable to their communities’ fundamental need for justice and respect.  Sign up for updates from the coalition here: www.phillydaforthepeople.org

The Philadelphia Coalition for a Just District Attorney will host a free forum, open to the public and with childcare provided, on April 18th, 2017, from 6pm-8pm, at Arch Street Methodist Church at 55. North Broad Street, in Center City Philadelphia, with the candidates for District Attorney, focusing on the issues noted in their platform and myriad other issues of great concerned to everyday communities.

In their full platform and website, available here – www.phillydaforthepeople.org – the Coalition’s membership, which represents tens of thousands of Philadelphia residents and voters, noted the unique urgency of Philadelphians making their voices heard through this election in the Trump era:

“Philly needs a DA who stands for justice–not to seek the harshest punishments or get the most convictions. Convictions don’t equal safety.”

The platform details a variety of important policies that the Coalition united to support, under headers including:

●      Stop Targeting Black and Brown Communities – Too many prosecutors focus on convictions and not on justice. We need a DA to commit to lessening the harsh impacts the system has on our communities. This includes declining to prosecute charges that criminalize us, but don’t keep us safe, ending cash bail in Philadelphia, and centering restorative solutions to crime that prioritize the real needs of victims.

●       Increase Transparency & Accountability – There’s a lot we don’t know about the prosecutor’s office–including simple data like how many people of color they convict a year–because historically there hasn’t been a commitment to transparency. We need a DA that will commit to being held accountable through oversight of their office and will hold law enforcement accountable when they break the law.

●       Treat Kids like Kids – We need a DA who will commit to making sure youth are in juvenile facilities rather than adult jails, and pushing to complete the work of re-sentencing young people who were sentenced to life without parole.

●       Consider the Immigration Consequences of Arrests and Convictions – In the Trump era, it is even more important that our new DA considers how any contact with the criminal justice system can result in deportation, limits collusion with ICE, promotes language access in courtrooms and elsewhere, as well as considers deportation as a collateral consequence in plea agreements.

The primary race for District Attorney will be held on May 16th. The election comes as Philadelphia faces troubling realities in the justice system:

●      Philadelphia has one of the highest per capita jail populations of any big city in the United States.  

●      Over 60% of the people held in Philadelphia jails have not yet been to trial. Most are locked up with large cash bails they cannot afford and over 70% of people in the city’s jails are people of color.  

●      The city currently charges youths as adults and holds them in adult jail. Almost 10% of all United States juveniles sentenced to life in jail come from Philadelphia.

●      Immigrants are stopped at traffic lights, and stripped of their cars if they lack the right documentation.

“Philadelphia has the chance to forge a new vision of just what a head prosecutor can do to improve people’s lives,” said Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color Of Change, a member of the coalition. “At a time when politicians in Washington are harkening back to discredited “law and order” policies, the city can become a beacon to the nation of the power of progressive change. Philadelphians need only seize the opportunity that they are presented with this year.”

“This election offers Philadelphians a unique chance to reject the harsh and unproductive policies and practices that have led to mass incarceration,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, another member of the coalition. “This is a chance to elect a district attorney who is committed to bringing true reform to Philadelphia’s criminal justice system.”

“I spent 18 months in jail for a crime I didn’t commit because my family couldn’t afford to pay my bail,” noted Josh Glenn, an organizer with the #No215Jail coalition. “Philadelphia needs a District Attorney who will end cash bail and stop locking people up for being poor.”

“”We struggled to raise bail to get my son out of prison, and the day after we posted it he was turned over to immigration and later deported,” said Gerardo Flores, board member of the New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia, another coalition member. “Not only was our son ripped away from us, we also lost a lot of hard-earned money. This election is an opportunity to advance justice for different communities, including us immigrants.”

“To ‘do justice’, to ‘love mercy’, & to ‘set the captive free’ aren’t just good ideas for good people, they’re ‘God’s ideas’ for all people,” said Reverend Nicolas O’Rourke of POWER Interfaith, another coalition member. “A people concerned with “God’s ideas” will vote for a District Attorney who is concerned with the same and will work to turn those Divine Ideas into Daily Realities for those most suffering in our city.”

“At Asian Americans United, we need a Philadelphia DA who will truly work to protect our communities through actions and not just campaign promises,” stated Alix Webb, executive director at Asian Americans United, another coalition member. “We need one who will ensure that this office doesn’t put our immigrant communities at unnecessary risk for deportation because of minor convictions, and who will fight to make sure that we are not living in fear of being picked up in courts or parole offices by federal ICE agents. “

“I want to see a District Attorney who recognizes that kids are different from adults and should be treated differently,” said Terrance Williams, a leader of coalition member Youth Art & Self-empowerment Project. “When I was incarcerated at 17, what I needed was support and help accessing resources – not to spend months in an adult jail.”

“Philadelphia’s corrupt criminal justice system has negatively affected immigrants and both black and brown families for decades,” noted Erika Almiron, executive director of coalition member Juntos. “Our communities have been criminalized for far too long and we have an opportunity in this race to ensure we have a District Attorney who is committed to ending the corruption inside the DA’s office – by adopting policies that prioritize accountability, transparency, and keep our families together – not incarcerated or deported.”

“In the wake of the massive changes facing our country after the election of Donald Trump, electing a District Attorney that centers racial and economic justice is one of the most powerful things we can do to help our city thrive,” said Bryan Mercer, executive director at Media Mobilizing Project, a coalition member. “Media Mobilizing Project is proud to join these extraordinary organizations centering decarceration, an end to racial profiling, and the provision of true justice, which will help keep our communities safe.”

Members of the Philadelphia Coalition for a Just District Attorney include: American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, Youth Art & Self-empowerment Project, The No215Jail Coalition, Juntos, The Center for Returning Citizens, Asian Americans United, Media Mobilizing Project, New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia, Techbook Online, VietLead, Reconstruction, Inc., X-Offenders for Community Empowerment, 215 People’s Alliance, Project HOME, Vote for Homes Coalition, Coalition to Abolish Death By Incarceration (CADBI), Frontline Dads, Inc., Color of Change.

Press contact:

Hannah Sassaman, hannah@mediamobilizingproject.org(267)-970-4007.

Aaron Freedman, Aaron.Freedman@berlinrosen.com(646)200-5284

Reuben Jones, frontlinedads@aol.com(267)-414-4764.