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State Senator Nikil Saval also spoke.
State Senator Nikil Saval also spoke. Photo: Alan Nunez

Shapiro hosts community conversation in West Philly on criminal justice reform, how to keep communities safe

Councilmember Kendra Brooks, other state officials, and co-victims spoke at the engagement hosted at the Mosaic Community Church.

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The criminal justice system, like gun rights and  immigration reform, has been the subject of many conversations and campaigns only for it to remain largely unchanged over the years. The lack of willingness to go out and speak to the community who are most harmed by such policies has been displayed by many before and now. 

On Friday, Aug. 12, Pennsylvania Attorney General tried to flip that script, and held a town hall on gun violence at West Philadelphia’s Mosaic Community Church where he talked about criminal justice reform and more safety for the most-affected communities. He was joined by fellow Philadelphia and PA public officials State Senator Nikil Saval, State Rep. Rick Krajewski, and Councilmembers Jamie Gauthier, Kendra Brooks and Helen Gym.

One of the speakers.

Many Philadelphia residents feel neglected under the current mayoral administration, but Shapiro vows to make more of a difference from Harrisburg. Besides trying to make Pennsylvania the nation’s leader in innovation and job creation, he also looks to fix the criminal justice system that has let many down, and in some cases broken them and their families. 

It’s a criminal justice system that has been historically and continues to be plagued by racial inequities. As a result, the community has lost trust over the course of time. Shapiro hopes to start the path back. 

“We will make smart, data-driven changes to improve faith in our system and spend tax dollars effectively, while maintaining strict standards of accountability for those who commit violent crimes — I refuse to accept the false choice between public safety and common sense — and it’s a choice I won’t make as Pennsylvania’s next Governor,” Shapiro said. 

Councilmember Kendra Brooks spoke.

As Attorney General, Shapiro has overseen the arrests of over 8,000 drug dealers. With that, unwanted drugs are off the streets and out of reach for children and young people. He aims to treat drug addiction as a disease and not as a crime like others do. 

His campaign has also touted the removal of thousands of guns off the streets, as gun violence remains an epidemic in Philadelphia. He wants to diversify the criminal justice system to create a fair chance for all. Additionally, he has brought community leaders and law enforcement in an effort to create a police misconduct database with the growing mistrust towards law enforcement after decades and ongoing mistreatment. 

Many different components go into fixing a criminal justice system and it takes an outside-the-box approach of thinking to get to the heart of these issues that many other leaders ignored or failed to address. 

Shapiro’s outside-of-the-box contribution is to invest in mental health, reforming the probation system that keeps many imprisoned even as free people, signing legislation to end life without parole, giving people a second chance at life, and further investing in public safety to unify the community and law enforcement that has been separated and pitted against one another. 

AG Josh Shapiro speaks to the community.

When asked how to regain the trust of the community considering the racial inequities that exist in criminal justice reform, 

“We start by working with the community, by engaging with them, by making sure we make reforms to our criminal justice system that are necessary to make it more fair and just and by making the investments in the community to ensure that every kid's got a good quality school to go to, folks have an affordable roof over their head, that they have policing in their community that both makes them safe and lets them feel safe,” he told the crowd in West Philadelphia. “We can do all of those things together. And I'm confident as governor, we'll be able to deliver.”

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