By Christopher “Flood the Drummer®” Norris
2.23.17: Philadelphia – (Politics): The Philadelphia voters I’ve spoken to thus far who are not currently considering Mr. Larry Krasner – a civil rights lawyer who has made a name for himself by defending in court for decades, sometimes for free, protesters of all kinds – as the runner they’ll back in the DA’s race, have emphasized as a priority selecting a candidate whom they perceive as experienced.
As an outsider, and someone who’s seen as more oppositional to government rather than an individual willing to assimilate into it, Mr. Krasner to some voters is thought of as inexperienced, or not as experienced as a few of his competitors, namely Mr. Tariq El-Shabazz, who decades ago worked in the DA’s office and who more recently was hired as a deputy to outgoing DA Mr. Seth Williams, and Mr. Rich Negrin, who, too, decades ago worked in the DA’s office and who under the last Mayoral administration served as the City’s Managing Director.
But Mr. Krasner, no stranger to pleading his case, argues that not only does he, as a successful defense attorney with a Center City Philadelphia law practice, have “tremendous expertise” in the criminal justice system, but that the DA’s office has been going in the wrong direction for thirty-plus years and he wasn’t apart of that problem, whereas the two aforementioned candidates were.
Mr. Krasner – who on Tuesday evening sat across from me in a booth at a bar where a petition party was hosted – said of the candidates who’ve wielded power and authority in the past, that they’ve done nothing to seek meaningful change nor have they, prior to seeking to be elected District Attorney, spoken truth to power.
“My strength is that I have spoken truth to power all along,” he said.
A seemingly incomparable record of resistance and altruism accompanies Mr. Krasner on the campaign trail, though he doesn’t see his bona fides as his biggest advantage, but rather his ideas. Among those ideas is the elimination of the cash bail system, a subject that we spent a good chunk of time discussing.
“Poor people are sentenced from the moment that bail is imposed,” Mr. Krasner, who has spent three decades attending bail hearings on both the federal and state level, told me.
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The 55 year-old, who worked in construction from age 13 until he went off to law school, said prosecutors have massive discretion and should use such discretion to avoid seeking cash bail for non-violent offenders and poor people. Particularly in Philadelphia, which is the poorest big city in America, poverty has a profound impact on the bail system, Mr. Krasner declared. If elected to the Office of the District Attorney, Mr. Krasner would instruct his subordinates to assume “a different position on cash bail that takes poverty into account.”
In the short term, he said, DAs can have their representative in the bail room not seeking cash bail on certain cases. Washington D.C., has a model that Mr. Krasner has studied and favors, and which NBC News said is so “thoroughly” overhauled that “only a small fraction of defendants are held in jail before trial.”
As Mr. Krasner sees it, the biggest problem at the DAs office is a Frank Rizzo-era culture that views longer jail sentences as better and diversionary programs as being weak on crime.
“They have it all wrong… and they’ve had it wrong for thirty years,” said the outspoken attorney.
Mr. Krasner, who claims to have no interest any elected office other than that which sits off Juniper Street in Center City Philadelphia, says he’s campaigning now because he’s done as much as anyone can do from the outside.
“There’s more that can be done to decarcerate the jails.”
The hurdle of identity politics – many Black voters want to see another black person succeed the disgraced Mr. Williams, the city’s first African-American District Attorney who accepted more than $100,000.00 in unreported gifts and announced he won’t seek re-election – is something Mr. Krasner, a white man, will have to overcome to be victorious. Non-white supporters of Mr. Krasner’s have emerged, and the candidate told me he expects that trend to continue.
Though Mr. Krasner – who committed to, if elected, taking a second look at the controversial and fatal police shooting of Mr. Brandon Tate-Brown but, like Mr. Negrin, stopped short of a full commitment to re-open the criminal investigation though he hasn’t completely ruled it out either – is positioning his ideas as the star of the campaign, it’s clear his record will be in play as he attempts to woo voters.
“It’s easy to talk the talk… But I’ve spent thirty years taking positions that are unpopular…I’ve walked the walk,” he said.
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Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™
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