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The forum was held Monday at the University of Pennsylvania UPenn Law School. Photo: Peter Fitzpatrick / AL DÍA News.
The forum was held Monday at the University of Pennsylvania UPenn Law School. Photo: Peter Fitzpatrick / AL DÍA News.

Candidates for AD: they agree on everything except in who is the best

The seven Democratic pre-candidates participated in a forum organized by the UPenn School of Law. Everyone agrees with the need to reform the Pennsylvania…

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In a forum with pre-candidates to the Philadelphia District Attorney, organized by the UPenn Law School on Monday, the seven aspirants to remain with the Democratic Party nomination set their positions on whether they would support future reforms to the city's judicial system, Execution of the Civil Forfeiture Program, measures to end racism in detention and to reduce the prison population of Philadelphia, one of the largest in the country. At the end of the day, it became clear that the Democratic presidential candidates agree on almost every issue, except who is best to take the seat of Seth Williams.

For example, when asked about their role in judicial reform and the likely opposition of the Pennsylvania District Attorney's Association in this area, the former chief administrative officer, Richard Negrin, expressed his intention to “lead an office that could become a national role model in judicial reform”, while

 John O'Neill and Joe Khan agreed that they would “lead” the Philadelphia Office of the Attorney General's efforts in that direction.

Richard Negrin

For his part, the until recently Assistant District Attorney Tariq El-Shabazz, stressed that it is necessary to move from a punitive approach to a preventive approach in some aspects of the system to achieve lower prison population rates. "Let's talk about the pre-entry programs; of addressing the problem of drugs and the opioid epidemic as a health problem. We did not do it before and the result of that is that we have massive incarceration".  All the candidates said they would support a reform of the Pennsylvania judicial system.

Regarding the Civil Forfeiture Program and the problem of a city with high rates of poverty and impunity, all the candidates agreed to advance a review and adjustment of the process, allocating money from confiscations for community work.

Negrin said that Philadelphia is "a national example in doing things wrong" in the execution of these decisions, he said that it is an unjust rule whose mechanisms must be adjusted to due process and guarantee the rights of the citizens. For civil rights advocate Larry Krasner, it is necessary to take measures to prevent seizures of property without a court order, as well as to prevent officers and stakeholders from directly participating in the money management resulting from the seizures "(Given the history we already know) The first thing we must do is to prevent the money from going to the DA budget.”

Larry Krasner

Another issue addressed in the discussion was racism as the starting point for the whole system. You just need to take a look at the figures to realize that far from being a latecomer, it is a problem that every day adds innocent people to the cells of the city and the state.

The 90 percent of prisoners in Philadelphia are African Americans (in the state they represent the 50 percent of the prison population). Adding to this the fact that Philadelphia has the highest rate of imprisonment among the largest cities in the United States, not to mention that the city of brotherly love is one of the most insecure and with the highest rate of impunity in the country.

In the words of one of the moderators of the forum, "These figures show that the Philadelphia court system is at least one of the most unfair and ineffective, especially with people of color and the poor."

In this sense, all the candidates referred to correctives that must occur within the Police, which is the first link in the judicial chain and which in many cases make their arrests and operations based on the physical appearance of the individual.

But were Tariq El-Shabazz, Larry Krasner, former judge Teresa Carr Deni and Richard Negrin who stood out at this point. The former advocated making a more diverse District Attorney's Office, recruiting "people who reflect to those living in Philadelphia" and gaining citizens' trust.

Tariq El-Shabazz

Judge Carr Deni said that if what is wanted is to impart impartial and evidence-based justice, not based in race, "it is necessary to put an end to the wage gap within the judicial branch. That men and women are paid equally; that the white officials do not earn more than their black peers”. For her, another key point is to employ a multilingual staff to guarantee access to justice for thousands of immigrants who arrive daily to the city.

Krasner expressed himself in the same line, being one of the most applauded of the night. As evidence of what would be a District Attorney's Office under his leadership, the civil rights advocate highlighted the Black Lives Matter's support for his campaign and singled out the Stop and Freeze program as one of the largest expressions of racism in local justice. While the Hispanic candidate, Negrin, said there is no better sign that he would be a District Attorney for all than the support he has received from the different Philadelphia police organizations.

The forum with Democratic candidates for the District Attorney's Office was extended until 9 pm with an auditorium full of law students, lawyers, and faculty members.

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