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Philadelphia jails are getting less crowded

The crime and punishment system in Philadelphia may be improving.  A Pew Charitable Trusts’ Philadelphia Research Initiative report shows Philadelphia’s jail population decreased dramatically last year.  The annual average daily population in the Philadelphia System fell 11 percent and it’s falling more this year.The Pew study credits jailing fewer people for pre-trial hearings or for alleged parole violations.  Report author Claire Shubik-Richards says new policies aimed at running the criminal justice system more efficiently also are freeing up jail beds.”A couple of those includes the creation of more options for people to be diverted away from court through the accelerated misdemeanor program and the small amount of marijuana program–a change in the way the District Attorney’s office under Seth Williams is charging cases,” said Shubik-Richards.District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Tasha Jamerson says the office along with its criminal justice partners has “simultaneously improved public safety and reduced the size of the county prison population, and proved that the two are not mutually exclusive.”The magic formula?”Through our efforts to charge only the crimes we can prove in court, divert small amounts of marijuana cases as well as low level misdemeanors out of the court system, and offer appropriate plea offers on other cases,” said Jamerson.Bill Dimascio, the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Prison Society, says electronic monitoring and other alternatives to incarceration would help even more.”Clearly it would be for use with those folks that are not being held for the most serious crimes and charges, but it would be for lesser offenses,” said Dimascio.Philadelphia is spending four percent less on jails than three years ago and is saving on police overtime.  The Pew report points out for there to be substantially more savings, the population will have to fall enough to enable the city to close an entire facility or a section of one.

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