Policy & Positions

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Victims’ and Survivors’ Rights

Every day, victims and survivors of crime bravely testify and recount how he or she has been harmed by another, sometimes under horrific circumstances. The District Attorney’s Office and its prosecutors must treat them with compassion, all while adhering to the highest of ethical standards.  Beth will seek to ensure that prosecutors, support staff and office police personnel will treat victims and survivors of crime with the respect they deserve and as set forth by the Pennsylvania Crime Victims Act, which states:

Section 11.102 of the Pennsylvania Crime Victims Act states:

  1. In recognition of the civic and moral duty of victims of crime to fully and voluntarily cooperate law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies and in further recognition of the continuing importance of victim cooperation to State and local law enforcement efforts and the general effectiveness and well-being of the criminal justice system of this Commonwealth, all victims of crime are to be treated with dignity, respect, courtesy and sensitivity.

 

2. The rights extended to victims of crime … are to be honored and protected by law enforcement agencies, prosecutors and judges in a manner no less vigorous than the protections afforded criminal defendants.

This can only be done with the tireless work of the numerous Victim-Witness service providers who assist victims and witnesses navigate the criminal justice system.

 

Juveniles

Juveniles are our most vulnerable population who, too often, enter into the criminal justice system.  Beth would like to work with the Philadelphia School District, community stakeholders, religious leaders, former offenders and mentoring programs in order to prevent juveniles from entering into the criminal justice system at all.  Pre-arrest diversion programs, social services and conflict resolution programs can help achieve this goal.

Heroin and Opioid Crisis

Philadelphia’s heroin and opioid problem is an epic public health crisis.  This requires all Philadelphia stakeholders in the criminal justice system and service providers to work together to assist those who are battling addiction.  Diversion and treatment programs must be offered to those who are ready for such – with the understanding that it may take multiple tries to overcome an addiction.

Under Beth, however, the District Attorney’s Office will investigate and prosecute large-scale narcotic traffickers and medical professionals who operate “pill mills”. Additionally, the District Attorney’s Legislation Unit will work with the Pennsylvania Legislature to address prescription amounts and limitations.

 

Decreasing Violent Crime

Philadelphians should not have to fear being the victim of a violent crime.  Reducing violent crime requires a combination of strong prosecution along with prevention programs focused upon juveniles and former offenders.

 

Gun Crimes

The possession of illegal guns and their use in violent crimes must be vigorously prosecuted.  Over the past several years, the District Attorney’s Office has decreased the prosecution of these crimes.  Since last year, homicides have increased by 18%.  This must change.

The Gun Violence Task Force will continue to investigate and prosecute sources of illegal guns used in crimes throughout Philadelphia.  This includes investigation of illegal sales and straw purchases of guns.

 

Focused Deterrence

Beth will seek to continue the Focused Deterrence Program, which focuses upon geographic areas of the city plagued by violent gun crimes.  Partnering with law enforcement and community agencies, this united group determines key offenders and groups who are likely to commit crimes.  Strategies include direct communication with offenders and groups through group meetings or call-ins with law enforcement, service providers and other community organizations.  Offenders are informed of what constitute illegal acts, consequences for continued illegal activity and which social services are available for support – offering those an opportunity to change their lives.

Hate and Bias Crimes

No one should ever be subject to a crime based upon one’s race, religion, gender, national origin, gender, sex or sexual orientation.  These crimes will not be tolerated our city.

 

Quality of Life and Public Nuisances

By having a strong Community Engagement Unit, the District Attorney’s Office can help Philadelphians address neighborhood problems including nuisance bars, dangerous properties and neglectful out-of-state landlords. This will include assigning prosecutors geographically throughout the city, so community stakeholders will always be able to contact someone directly for assistance.

 

Re-entry Programs

Beth fully supports re-entry programs – programs that assist those being released from incarceration to successfully returned to his or her family, neighborhood and the work force.  These programs have been proven to prevent recidivism, which benefits everyone.  She would like to partner with those successful individuals to reach out to juveniles as part of a prevention program.

 

Reducing the Prison Population

Too many individuals are being detained prior to trial because of his or her inability to make bail. The purpose of bail is to ensure that the accused appears in court, not to punish.  Philadelphia’s high level of poverty has resulted in prison overcrowding and systemic inequities.  Elimination of bail for lower-level non-violent offenses will reduce such overcrowding and allow our prisons a better use of its resources for those serving county sentences.

 

Forfeiture

Pursuant to a recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision, the District Attorney’s Office will only seek for forfeit real estate in certain instances – where large quantities of drugs and guns are recovered or those instances where the property owner is convicted of the underlying narcotics offense.

 

Conviction Review Unit

Beth will continue and expand the Conviction Review Unit.  No one who is innocent of a crime should be falsely convicted and incarcerated.  The District Attorney’s Office has an ethical obligation to review those cases where evidence supports claims of innocence. This will include working with the Innocence Project and other outside agencies.