How Philly Plans To Ditch Cash Bail And What Stands In The Way


Publish Date:
September 11, 2017
  • Orso, Anna
Billy Penn
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Josh Glenn was just 16 when he was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, charged as an adult and thrown in a Philadelphia jail cell. That’s where he sat for 18 months, unable to post the $2,000 bail that would have let him out of the city’s House of Correction.

Glenn’s case was ultimately dismissed and he was released, sent back into the world having spent a year-and-a-half on State Road. Today, Glenn is 29 and a criminal justice reform advocate in the city who’s fighting daily to change the system, starting with what he considers to be a broken cash bail apparatus that punishes the poor just for being poor.

David A. Sklansky, a Stanford law professor who follows the work of progressive prosecutors around the country, said this approach can work.

“Judges often follow prosecutors’ recommendations on bail as well as on other things,” he said, “so prosecutors can do a lot just by changing their recommendations in particular cases.”

Sklansky said as challenging as it can be to win hearts and minds outside the District Attorney’s Office, it can be just as difficult to gain buy-in from the inside, particularly from career prosecutors, some of whom have worked in the system for decades. He said that’s “another reason why it can be difficult for a progressive prosecutor to make good on the hope and expectations that surround his or her election.”

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