Statement from #CLOSEthecreek Campaign Coordinator, Reuben Jones, As Philadelphia’s District Attorney and Chief Public Defender Reject Risk Assessment Tool (RAT) in a Historic Break with the First Judicial District

May 9, 2019

JustLeadershipUSA and the #CLOSEthecreek campaign applaud Chief Public Defender Keir Bradford-Grey and District Attorney Larry Krasner and their position that Philadelphia does NOT need a Risk Assessment Tool (RAT) in Philadelphia. We commend the Defenders Association and the District Attorney’s Office for standing up to the the First Judicial District (FJD) and joining advocates who have said NOT ON MY WATCH! NOT IN MY CITY!

The district attorney and chief public defender’s excoriating letter to First Judicial District leadership officially withdraws support for the development and implementation of a Risk Assessment Tool (RAT), and points to additional behavior out of line with transforming justice in Philadelphia. Philadelphia is already the most incarcerated big city in America with a stark racial disparity in the county jails: for every 10 people incarcerated, 9 of them are Black people or people of color and 1 is white.

Opposition to risk assessments tools and electronic monitors remain a cornerstone of #CLOSEthecreek campaign demands. Organizers and advocates have established that cash bail causes harm to poor people and disproportionately impacts people of color, it makes no sense to replace that system with a racially biased computer algorithm that will do the same thing, or even worse.  Dismantling the system of oppression and mass incarceration, will take bold steps, and not allowing our movement to be duped into believing that a computer fed biased information, can predict who will commit crimes in the future. Instead we must focus on assessing and addressing human needs in order to prevent harm, and support healing and justice.

#CLOSEthecreek leaders are members of the N0215 Jail Coalition, partners of the National Bailout Organization (NBO), founders of the Philadelphia Community Bail Fund working in partnership with community stakeholders including Frontline Dads Inc., Media Mobilizing Project (MMP), YASP, TCRC, Mothers In Charge, and POWER. The First Judicial District has refused to meet with these leaders and organizations and has failed to include the input of community leaders and directly impacted leadership in any of their decisions.

The letter to the FJD from the Defenders Association and the District Attorney’s Office is a seminal moment in the Philadelphia justice reform movement. It communicates that we are not willing to fall for fake criminal justice reforms that create more harm than good. It communicates that both the D.A.’s Office and the Defenders Association are listening to the people and are leading with conviction by leveraging the power of their office to challenge the status quo and creating a greater good. We must seize the opportunity for justice transformation now.  Community leaders across the city stand in support of the letter and we hope the FJD is listening.

#CLOSEthecreek campaign leaders also hope Mayor Kenney is paying attention and will now leverage the power of his office to call on the FJD to abandon this reckless approach to creating fake reforms and work more responsibly to create a more fair system. Ending cash bail is inevitable. Failure is not an option. We will get there, with or without our current leadership. That means the people will vote people in office who will truly represent their interests and will vote people out who don’t. We will not allow cash bail to be replaced with a computer based algorithm designed to predict human behavior and provide cover for Judges and elected officials who are afraid of change. The community deserves better. Community leadership demands that we do more than settle for the low hanging fruit but look to create real structural changes in our criminal justice system so that we can truly begin to protect public safety while preserving the constitutional guarantee to due process in a fair and equitable system of justice. Because after all, without fairness, there is no justice.

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