DA candidate outlines criminal justice reform plan

Michael Untermeyer, a Democratic candidate for district attorney, presented his criminal justice reform plan in front of the Criminal Justice Center.

The plan focuses on, in part, improving community relations.

Untermeyer said that, instead of pursuing statistics on convictions, he’ll prioritize going after dangerous criminals and organizations.

“We need a deputy-level position to oversee and lead community relations and ADAs assigned to every neighborhood and community. This will ensure that every Philadelphian has access to a fair and just system,” he said.

As DA, Untermeyer would create a conviction integrity unit to examine bad convictions and fight for fairness. He would also look at the civil forfeiture system so it does not take advantage of people. He suggests not taking forfeitures under a certain monetary value, and spending some of the forfeiture money on programs helping drug users rather than prosecuting them.

“Right now, our DA office gets headlines for scandal. We should be getting headlines for having the best ideas and leading the country in innovation in criminal justice,” he said.

ull;•

Joe Khan, a Democratic candidate for district attorney, is proposing a new model for addressing drug abuse and addiction in Philadelphia by calling for treatment instead of prosecution for most simple drug possession cases.

Prosecuting addicts for misdemeanor drug possession has proven expensive and ineffective, he said, and has done little to solve the drug epidemic in Philadelphia and nationwide. Khan also proposed working with city and state officials to help ensure that a more robust network of counselors and treatment providers are in place in lieu of prosecution.

“Over 16 years as a prosecutor, I watched the criminal justice system spend endless resources prosecuting people whose problems are more appropriately addressed as a public health issue. As district attorney, I will end the practice of prosecuting people merely because they suffer from addiction, and will ensure that our limited resources are focused on fighting violent crime,” he said.

Khan believes the district attorney’s office’s relies too much on statistics over justice.

“Misdemeanor drug prosecutions may help the DA’s office maintain a high conviction rate, but they do nothing to actually solve our city’s drug crisis,” he said. ”

ull;•

Tariq El-Shabazz, another Democratic candidate for district attorney, condemned last week’s spray-painting of a swastika on the front step of a home on Clark Place in Somerton.

“Given the history of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Trump administration, we can no longer rely on the federal government to prosecute hate crimes like these, so it will fall on local prosecutors to bring those who commit these crimes to justice,” he said. “Every Philadelphian will know that I will be the district attorney who works tirelessly to bring to justice anyone who commits these heinous acts. My heart goes out to this family and their loved ones. I want to personally thank the neighbors of the Somerton area who without hesitation lent a helping hand to wash away the hateful symbol.”

ull;•

U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle criticized President Donald Trump’s address to a joint session of Congress.

“Tonight, the president issued a worn and weary campaign stump speech instead of a realistic blueprint for moving our country forward. It is now clear this president is more interested in campaigning instead of doing the hard work of governing. The president took to the podium in front of Congress tonight without a single jobs bill or accomplishment to his name. The reality of the world the president lives in and the truth of his actions tell a very different tale: a story of broken promises to the American people.”

Boyle faulted Trump for his actions regarding Wall Street, health care and Russia, and said the president has “sown fear in America’s vulnerable communities with a cruel, incompetent and unconstitutional executive agenda.”

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey said he agrees with Trump on rolling back unnecessary regulations, fixing the tax code, maintaining a strong military, allowing students in failing public schools to have more opportunities and protecting communities from violent criminals, including those who are here illegally.

“Unfortunately, some of my friends on the other side of the aisle may be hearing a call to promote gridlock. I hope the recent level of obstructionism, meant to prevent the president from even having advice from his own cabinet, does not foretell their approach to legislation.” ••