Krasner Issues Working Criminal Justice Measures For COVID-19

Alex Lloyd Gross Photo- Delaware Valley File photo Philly DA Larry Krasner.

PHILADELPHIA (March 16, 2020) – District Attorney Larry Krasner on Monday announced a series of measures to protect the public’s health and safety and prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, in the Philadelphia criminal justice system.

Following the First Judicial District (FJD) of Pennsylvania’s decision to close the Justice Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice (CJC) and all FJD facilities effective March 17, 2020, and until April 1, 2020, District Attorney Krasner has issued the following guidance to District Attorney’s Office (DAO) unit supervisors and assistant district attorneys (ADAs) for minimizing exposure and transmission of COVID-19 in the criminal legal system. Absent special circumstances, the DAO will seek the following:

  • Defendants charged with violent felonies and other truly serious offenses should be held in custody with the equivalent of a ‘held-without-bail’ status;
  • Defendants charged with non-violent felony and misdemeanor offenses should not be held pre-trial for any amount of cash bail;
  • Following a request to the Philadelphia Police Department to use their discretion and prioritize dangerous offenses for arrest, ADAs will exercise their discretion on charging and request no-bail detention only for people who present a net safety risk to the public;
  • ADAs may exercise options to delay prosecution for people who must still be held accountable for their crimes for the benefit of the public but whose immediate arrest is unnecessary (methods may include approving arrest warrants for turn-in or execution at a later time or the use of a summons in cooperation with police and the courts);
  • Domestic violence matters, among other types of cases involving specialized issues, may be appropriate for consideration in Early Bail Review (EBR) or another available proceeding where judges have more power and resources than exist in bail hearings; and
  • ADAs will continue to work with the Public Defender to review early parole or release petitions, bail reduction requests, and requests to lift detainers among other relevant motions for people who do not present a public safety threat, people whose underlying medical conditions make them at risk for COVID-19 infection and transmission, and people who are being detained for technical probation violations and not new criminal offenses.
As of Monday, ADAs reviewed and supported more than 100 people for early parole in order to alleviate unsafe crowding in prisons.
“This pandemic requires us all to think differently and bear in mind the paramount danger to the public we cause by ignoring public health,” District Attorney Krasner said. “Our effort to reform the cash bail system to date is already a success. I am hopeful that our move toward additional bail reforms now, due to the urgent need to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak in Philadelphia, will be similarly successful. As with all policy reforms, we will review and assess outcomes after the public health emergency declaration period, and make adjustments to our planned cashless bail policy as needed.”District Attorney Krasner added: “I want to be clear: People who do violence and commit truly serious offenses risk being charged and held in custody. You do not want to be in any jail or prison right now, and I suggest that this warning ought to affect people’s decision-making and behaviors beyond this public health emergency.”

District Attorney Krasner has also communicated with Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw about new arrest priorities during the COVID-19 emergency. Preliminary data show that arrests remained constant last weekend, the first since emergency response measures were announced in Philadelphia. Among the dozens of non-violent misdemeanor arrests made: four people were arrested for unlicensed selling of liquor.

“People charged with non-violent offenses generally should not be added to the jail population at this time. Doing so would only increase risk of infection to police officers, guards, other detainees, and workers,” District Attorney Krasner continued. “We are hopeful that the Philadelphia Police will change arrest patterns in order to ensure only truly dangerous offenders are taken into custody and that the prison system is not stressed beyond what it can bear.”

In Seattle, where testing and reported COVID-19 cases are more advanced than in Philadelphia, District Attorney Dan Satterberg has announced his office is filing charges only for serious violent offenses.

Effective March 17th, most unit supervisors and all non-essential DAO personnel are instructed to work remotely. Notable exceptions to this guidance include ADAs responsible for essential, 24/7 functions, including the Charging Unit.

The Philadelphia Police just adopted new procedures that mirror what Krasner said.