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New Law Diverts Authority Away From Philadelphia Progessive Prosecutor

A new law taking aim at Philadelphia’s progressive prosecutor creates a new position that diverts authority from the twice-elected district attorney, with Republican lawmakers arguing the legislation is necessary to prosecute crimes they say aren’t pursued. It’s the latest example of progressive prosecutors across the country facing political crosswinds, the Associated Press reports. The measure, which was signed into law by Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro last week as part of a flurry of bills wrapping up a months-overdue budget, creates a new special prosecutor role that has the authority to investigate and prosecute crimes that occur on the city’s public transit system, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, known as SEPTA. There were a tidal wave of progressive prosecutor victories several years ago, campaigning on policies that typically seek diversion to mental health treatment or drug abuse treatment for low-level crimes, efforts to hold police more accountable, and proactively try to free inmates who were wrongfully convicted.


But those prosecutors have been met with the backlash and scrutiny from conservative lawmakers for their policies. In San Francisco, Chesa Boudin was recalled by voters, while St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner resigned following a turbulent and heavily criticized tenure from Republican lawmakers in Missouri. There’s been a number of attempts nationally to erode the autonomy of elected officials like Krasner, which is disrespecting the will of voters, said Miriam Krinsky, executive director for Fair and Just Prosecution, which works with prosecutors around the country on criminal justice reform. “I think with the impact and success of a growing movement among communities to bring about change in the criminal legal system, it’s not surprising there are some who are wedded to the status quo and don’t want to move forward and insist on abiding by failed punitive practices of that past,” she said.

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