June 20th, 2018 by Attorney Dan Carman
To conspiracy theorists and fans of the paranormal, the Philadelphia Experiment was an effort by the U.S. Navy during World War II that went terribly wrong. Instead of a newly constructed destroyer disappearing from radar, the ship located off the Philadelphia Navy yard vanished entirely, was teleported off Virginia, then back to Philadelphia, leaving some sailors seriously burned and injured. This never actually happened, but there’s a real life experiment in Philadelphia that deserves the attention of those who care about society and the criminal justice system.
There are too many people incarcerated in America. Philadelphia recognized that fact and chose to release many who posed no danger to society. This action did not turn Philadelphia into a crime-filled danger zone must have puzzle its critics. In April the city announced they would close an infamous 91-year-old jail in 2020 because the city’s prison population had been cut by a third over the past two years.
- Defense attorneys are putting more effort into having defendants released quickly with no bail or low bail; prosecutors in most cases don’t object, and the city’s judges are releasing them.
- Philadelphia police officers are taking more defendants to addiction treatment, not jail.
- More petitions for early parole from longer sentences are being granted.
- There’s more space for rehabilitation programs for inmates, and less overtime pay is being paid by taxpayers to correctional officers.
The top levels of Philadelphia’s justice system are in agreement that the reforms, which have been aided by a $3.5 million grant and guidance from the MacArthur Foundation, are working, reports the Washington Post.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney told the newspaper that the city’s jails were filled with repeat offenders because they weren’t treated “holistically”; they were just locked up where they would do their time, be released, then be rearrested and return. Kenney stated that two new approaches were particularly successful.
- There’s early bail review for those in jail after five days with bonds of $50,000 or less. The Mayor claimed 84% of those reviewed were released within five days, with more than 92% showing up for later hearings.
- Police are also diverting drug offenders to treatment clinics. Since December, none who have been part of the program have been rearrested.
Serious crimes in the city (murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and auto theft) have decreased 3% over the past two years.
“What you have in Philadelphia,” said Laurie R. Garduque, director of justice reform for the MacArthur Foundation, “are shared values with respect to a fair and effective justice system and protecting public safety. And a realization that there are better ways to hold people accountable instead of incarceration. When you start to shrink the footprint of the system, and do it safely, you’re in a posture that’s more fair and more effective.”
Another change is that public defenders are in police district stations, representing clients immediately after an arrest and during their first appearance before a bail commissioner. They can provide judges much better information so they can make more informed decisions about bail. Defendants are now having lower or no bond requirements.
Philadelphia had the highest per capita incarceration rate among the country’s ten largest cities before changes took place, often needlessly harming defendants and their families. Many non-violent offenders, or those with a low threat of fleeing, would remain incarcerated because they couldn’t make bail, costing them jobs and their ability to support themselves and their families.
A key to the success of the program is that a wide range of parties with different perspectives have “bought into” the changes, including the police, judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers. Because of this, there’s more public confidence, legitimacy and the Philadelphia community is better off.
While the benefits of this modern-day Philadelphia experiment are obvious, they remain science fiction to many of those in power in Kentucky. If you or a family member is facing criminal charges, you need a criminal defense attorney who can protect your rights and your future. Contact us today so you can discuss your situation with one of the attorneys at the Lexington, Kentucky-based Carman Law Firm. As criminal defense attorneys with years of experience, we offer thorough, experienced representation.