Josh Shapiro, a Democratic candidate for attorney general, has announced a plan to reform Pennsylvania’s criminal justice system.
Shapiro, who serves as chairman of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners and chairman of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, said he’s committed to reforming criminal justice reform.
“We can make our communities safer,” Shapiro said during an interview with The Tribune. “We can reduce crime victims and meet their needs while also protecting the interests of Pennsylvania taxpayers and the time is now to advance real criminal justice reform.”
He recently discussed his plan at a community forum on criminal justice issues at New Covenant Church in Philadelphia along with Philadelphia NAACP President Rodney Muhammad, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams and other community and law enforcement leaders.
The wide-ranging plan includes championing diversion programs so that drug addicts receive treatment instead of being incarcerated, ensuring that Pennsylvanians get the right to a fair defense, training ex-offenders to break the cycle of recidivism, reforming the state’s sentencing policies so that they are responsible, ensuring fairness and objectivity in handling cases involving use of force by police officers and improving discussions between the community and police.
“We’ve never had a chief law enforcement officer of Pennsylvania who has been advocating for real criminal justice reform and I think I’m going to be in a unique position to advance these important policies for the betterment of our communities,” Shapiro said.
He is running against Republican nominee John Rafferty. He did not immediately return a call for comment on Monday. Rafferty, a Montgomery County native, is a four-term state senator and former Pennsylvania state deputy attorney general.
Shapiro said he has received bipartisan praise for his criminal justice reform plan.
“For all of the divisiveness around politics today, this seems to be one issue that is transcending political lines,” he said.
Shapiro’s plan was hailed by Philadelphia City Council President Darrell Clarke.
“Overcrowded prisons are more than dangerous and costly: They represent systemic societal failure to nurture every child and ensure every adult has an opportunity to thrive,” said Clarke, who is leading the city’s efforts to reform its criminal justice system. “Josh Shapiro understands that each and every taxpayer, regardless of background or stature, is touched by the criminal justice system. Shapiro’s plan to reform Pennsylvania’s criminal justice system is holistic, efficiency-driven and humane.”
As the PCCD chairman, Shapiro leads Pennsylvania’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative, which is bringing together leaders from the executive branch, legislature and courts to develop bipartisan solutions aimed at increasing public safety and reducing corrections spending.
Shapiro said he wants to continue working on reducing the disproportionately high contact of minority youth with police and providing additional training to police officers to deal more effectively with the communities that they are sworn to protect.
He also wants to address the issue of getting illegal guns off the streets of Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania.
“We need an attorney general who is going to take on the gun lobby and deal with gun violence,” Shapiro stressed. “I think this is a critically important issue in the campaign and I’m out there talking about it every day.”
He supported universal background checks for those seeking to purchase guns, ensuring that the state cracks down on straw purchasers and the expansion of Philadelphia gun violence task force.