Report: Kenney weighing bail reform to help with prison overcrowding

 Democratic mayoral candidate Jim Kenney is said to be weighing a proposal that would alter the bail process in Philadelphia. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Democratic mayoral candidate Jim Kenney is said to be weighing a proposal that would alter the bail process in Philadelphia. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

The Inquirer reported Tuesday night that Democratic mayoral candidate Jim Kenney is “weighing a bail proposal for Philadelphia [as] part of a broader plan to address the city’s overcrowded prisons in the event that he wins the mayor’s office this fall.”

The news, about which campaign spokeswoman Lauren Hitt declined to share details, comes as New York City prepares to eliminate cash bail for low-level offenders charged with nonviolent crimes.

According to the Inquirer story:

Kenney … is looking to reduce the city’s prison population while ending what [Hitt] called “the epidemic of nonviolent offenders being kept in prison because of their inability to make nominal bails.”

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As recently as Monday, Kenney’s staff and stakeholders met to iron out details. “It’s clear that everyone shares that common goal,” Hitt said.

Inmate advocates have long argued that bail unfairly burdens the poor, and their criticism has gained some traction in recent years in other quarters. Across the country, broader prison reform has increasingly drawn bipartisan support, as it addresses both humanitarian and fiscal concerns. New Jersey’s legislature last year passed changes that allow judges, starting in 2017, to release certain inmates without bail before trial, a measure supported by Gov. Christie.

For her part, Republican mayoral candidate issued a statement on the school-to-prison pipeline on Wednesday morning. It reads:

As Mayor of Philadelphia I will implement policies that will end the school to prison pipeline and open a “School to Jobs Pathway.”

My education policy calls for fully funding schools, improving the education of our children and investing in early intervention programs.

Philadelphia can help make this possible by saving money through criminal justice reform where in 2011 we spent seven cents of every tax dollar on holding inmates.

People are spending excessive time in jail just because they are poor and can’t post their bail. It is just another example of how we exploit the poor instead of having fair opportunity for all Philadelphians.

I have a fresh vision and I want to be part of the solution – not another politician who says they want to make a change but refuses to make the hard choices that will make a difference.

My education and economic policies combined with my ideas for criminal justice reform will make Philadelphia a safer and better city for all of us to live and raise our families.

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