Councilman Curtis Jones

Councilman Curtis Jones speaks before City Council.

— TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO

Council members passed a resolution on Thursday pushing the city’s district attorney and First Judicial District of Pennsylvania to bring in policies that reduce cash bail reliance.

The resolution was introduced by Councilman Curtis Jones Jr., who has been pressing for action surrounding the city’s cash bail system and referencing Washington, D.C., which got rid of its system 20 years ago.

“I’m excited because I believe for the first time, the district attorney, the administration, the courts, are all moving in the same direction on reducing the reliance on cash bail,” Jones said.

“Either someone is a danger to themselves or society, or they are not. Holding people for ransom doesn’t make us safer by using cash bail. So we are working with our colleagues at the state level to actually change the law requiring it.”

Jones said council will be pushing for the courts to not simply rely on the system that some feel have been unfairly holding people in jails for non-violent crimes as they are awaiting trial.

Council held a criminal justice reform hearing earlier this week that included the company of District Attorney Larry Krasner, who ran his campaign focusing on civil rights and criminal justice issues.

Krasner’s office has made several changes in their office that started earlier last month with new appointments. They still are standing firm to what Krasner ran his campaign on.

“D.A. Krasner has consistently expressed his support for changing the bail system to reduce the number of people held in pre-trial detention, especially for people charged with low-level or non-violent offenses who are not threats to public safety,” said Krasner’s spokesperson Ben Waxman.

“This is a major priority for DA Krasner. We are currently engaged in an internal review of DAO policies to determine the best way that our office can contribute towards making that goal a reality.”

Jones who also serves as a chair of council’s Special Committee on Criminal Justice Reform, also noted the resolution would look to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and Pennsylvania State Legislature to act on bringing a statewide end on cash bail systems in jails.

Councilman (At-Large) Derek Green believes council is taking a step in the right direction.

“This is an excellent start for confronting and resolving the issue of cash bail in Philadelphia, as well as reducing the reliance on a cash bail system in Pennsylvania,” he said.

“The passage of this resolution is definitely a crucial step toward progressive bail reform and I applaud my colleague, Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr., and the Special Committee on Criminal Justice Reform for their diligence and hard work. I believe that through the combined efforts of Philadelphia City Council, the District Attorney’s Office and the First Judicial District of PA, we can find an alternative that neither exacerbates already dire situations for low-income families or individuals who can’t afford to pay bail, nor does it further contribute to the horrendously discriminate overcrowding of prisons.”

In Washington, D.C., which Jones has consistently noted as a model system in bail reform, 91 percent of defendants were granted a release along with not being locked up on a criminal charge due to inabilities to pay according to the D.C. Department of Corrections.

Black Lives Matter PA leader Asa Khalif commented on council passing Jones’ resolution.

“I want to commend councilman Jones for continuing to lead the way for this as far as cash bail is concerned for here in Philadelphia, its really a trap for the poor, especially for here in Philadelphia,” he said.

“If a bill passes, it could def save hundreds of thousands of dollars for the city. it drains poor people, especially black and brown people.”

In other happenings, council authorized the city to get involved with joining the National Stepping Up Alliance in a resolution on preventing people with mental illnesses to get placed into jails.

Council also resolved a resolution that recognized the sacrifices made by the Memphis sanitation workers, notable for starting the “I Am a Man” campaign for equal wages and treatment in their work environment.

Councilman Derek Green saw his resolution resolved on the first day of Black History Month, along with Councilwoman (At-Large) Helen Gym introducing a resolution declaring 2018 as the Year of W.E.B. DuBois in the City of Philadelphia.

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