Philadelphia’s City Council Calls on Officials to End Cash Bail System

By Kenrya Rankin Feb 02, 2018

Following a public hearing on Monday (January 29) to discuss strategies for remaking the city’s criminal justice system, Philadelphia’s City Council passed a resolution yesterday (February 1) calling on officials to end the practice of using cash bail to detain arrestees ahead of their trials.

Per the council’s website, the resolution was passed with the purpose of:

Encouraging the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office and the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania to institute internal policies that reduce reliance on cash bail; and further calling on the Pennsylvania State Legislature and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to revise state laws and procedure codes governing bail to allow for the elimination of cash bail statewide, or to provide for an exemption in the law for cities of the first class.

The measure is a recommendation; it is up to the named entities to enact official changes. The Office of the District Attorney is headed by Larry Krasner, who previously represented social justice-minded clients including Black Lives Matter. The Philadelphia Tribune reports that Krasner was in attendance at this week’s hearings.

From his spokesperson, Ben Waxman: “Larry Krasner deeply appreciated the testimony from the public and the participation from other key stakeholders in the criminal justice system,” he said. “He particularly appreciated the testimony from victims, returning citizens, and anti-violence advocates. It’s critical that all of these voices be included in the conversation of how to build a justice system that truly works for everyone. He looks forward to working with all parties to accomplish this goal.”

Representatives from several advocates groups were also on hand, including #No215Jail, the Youth Art & Self-Empowerment Project and the Philadelphia Community Bail Fund.

Per the council, the city has one of the highest per capital jail populations of any major U.S. city. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that Philadelphia County—which shares borders with the city—is 44.2 percent Black, with a total 55.2 percent population of color. Nationwide, the cash bail system disproportionately disadvantages people of color, who are more likely to be be arrested and to be living in poverty and unable to pay their way out of lockup.