What the Pandemic Revealed About ‘Progressive’ Prosecutors


But she did not provide any data to refute our report’s numbers, and a more recent analysis by the Defender Association of Philadelphia, which provides free legal representation for defendants in criminal cases, found similar ratios months later, after those arrests had resumed. And there’s no context that changes the reality that attempting to detain about half of presumably innocent people arrested pretrial is morally abhorrent, especially during a pandemic.

No-cash-bail jurisdictions, like New Jersey and the District of Columbia, albeit imperfect, ultimately detain about 7 to 8 percent of people who are charged pretrial. By asking for people to be detained at a rate almost seven times that, Mr. Krasner isn’t just breaking his promise to end cash bail; he’s embracing cash bail.

While Philadelphia’s jail numbers dropped for part of last year, it was after our fund and others paid millions of dollars to free hundreds of people during the pandemic. Police temporarily froze arrests for certain charges. And the courts, under pressure from grass-roots organizers, agreed to release some incarcerated people through emergency hearings.

The problem is not confined to Philadelphia, especially when it comes to bail.

In Chicago, a “progressive” state’s attorney, Kim Foxx, said in March that her office was “working around the clock with the Cook County sheriff and public defender to ensure any individuals who are not a threat to public safety are released from Cook County Jail.”

In saying that, she portrayed herself as someone who wanted to minimize the number of people behind bars during a pandemic, adding that her office would “agree to appropriate releases for the duration of this pandemic, to limit the number of people in our jail and reduce the number of people needlessly coming to court while recognizing there are both public health and safety risks that some detainees may pose.”

Although hundreds of inmates were eventually released, an independent review of her office by the Chicago Appleseed Center for Fair Courts showed something very different: Prosecutors with Ms. Foxx’s office contested the overwhelming majority of motions for bond reductions from March to May, despite the local jail at the time being the nation’s largest known source of coronavirus infections.

Baltimore’s state attorney, Marilyn Mosby, signed a national letter from prosecutors promising to reduce jail admissions during the pandemic. While she said her office should be credited for decreasing arrests and lowering the jail population, according to a July analysis by The Appeal, her office continued to hold defendants without bail in roughly the same numbers as before the pandemic.

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