Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, one of the most progressive prosecutors in the country and one implementing a strong reform agenda, visited UCLA School of Law's Criminal Justice Program on Oct. 31. Krasner shared with UCLA Law students the major cultural and systemic changes he has been hard at work to implement in his office since being elected in January 2018. Krasner spoke about the inequalities in our society based on race and class that lead to arrests and mass incarceration. "Mass incarceration does not merely fail to prevent more crime, it causes crime," he said. "Eliminating the safety net for people in poverty, eliminating a safety net for mental illness and the treating of addiction as a crime instead of treating it for what it is, which is a medical condition, causes crime and makes things worse."
He advocated for a model where funds for prosecution and law enforcement are redirected into prevention efforts.
From left: UCLA Law professor Beth Colgan, Carolyn Engel Temin, Larry Krasner and professor Máximo Langer, also from UCLA Law
Krasner is also an innovator in staffing. He has hired a criminologist for his office, noting that previously none of the criminologists in the Philadelphia area had ever been consulted by the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office. He hired the chief of the mental health unit of the Defender Association of Philadelphia to work with his office so prosecutors can better understand how to approach those with mental health problems who are charged with crimes. To prevent over-incarceration, Krasner has shifted the office culture so that prosecutors only request that defendants be held on after bail individualized consideration of each case.
"Prosecutors were given this tremendous power, but also this tremendous ability to stay their hand, and not to use that power," He said.
Prior to being elected, Krasner spent five years as a public defender and 25 years in private practice, representing clients in criminal defense matters and cases filed against police. He was joined at UCLA by his first assistant, Carolyn Engel Temin, a former judge and the first female attorney to be hired by the Defender Association of Philadelphia.