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‘Philly D.A.’: Larry Krasner Plans Radical Bail Reform in Clip From PBS Docuseries

The first three years of Larry Krasner’s tenure as Philadelphia District Attorney is the focus of the upcoming PBS docuseries Philly D.A. Ahead of the eight-part series arrival on April 20th, Rolling Stone has an exclusive clip that gives viewers an inside look into Krasner’s office.

In the clip, the freshly elected Krasner arrives in the D.A.’s office with a radical plan to reform and overhaul Philadelphia’s oppressive bail policies. “They didn’t do a damn thing in this office in terms of changing these policies for 30-effing years,” Krasner says. “We’re going to do a phased rollout of improvement of bail practices. For right now, phase one, let’s see what we can do around SAM — small amounts of marijuana — sex work, retail theft. And I think we can move quickly to a bail policy recommending that there be no cash bail. And tell ’em it’s coming.”

Krasner adds of public pushback to his plan: “Everybody always talks in these terms of what the public thinks and doesn’t think. I’ll tell you what the public gonna think: If they see a lot less people in jail for dumb stuff, they’re gonna think that’s good.”

Following its acclaimed premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, Philly D.A. will come to PBS as part of their Independent Lens series on April 20th, when the first episode will air. The remaining seven episodes will broadcast weekly. (However, the PBS member station in Philadelphia, WHYY, will delay broadcast of Philly D.A. until after the November 2021 municipal elections in order to avoid any potential influence on the campaign process.)

“In 2017, Krasner, a civil rights attorney who sued the Philadelphia Police Department 75 times throughout his career, mounted a longshot campaign supported by activists and organizers, and ultimately won the District Attorney’s seat in a city that has the highest incarceration rate of any large city in the United States,” PBS said of the docuseries. “From Krasner’s win in 2017 up to the present moment, Philly D.A. brings viewers inside the emotional, high-stakes work that Krasner and an ensemble of idealistic outsiders from different walks of life take on as they strive to overhaul an entrenched criminal justice system while grappling with detractors, political opposition, and a skeptical public.”

Philly D.A. was directed by documentary filmmakers Ted Passon and Yoni Brook, who embedded themselves in the district attorney’s office on a near-daily basis for the last three years. “This unfiltered access captures Krasner’s dramatic first year in office and documents the day-to-day struggles of trying to change the criminal justice system in the most incarcerated big city in America. Krasner and his team drew national headlines as they pushed for reforms such as prosecuting police misconduct and brutality, rethinking sentencing, reforming probation and parole, minimizing the use of cash bail, and ending pursuit of the death penalty,” PBS continued.

“The District Attorney’s office is an opaque institution but integral to local policymaking, and has a profound effect on how citizens live in any community,” Passon and Brook said in a statement. “Krasner is just one of a growing number of progressive prosecutors taking office around the country,  and so we hope this behind-the-scenes portrait of a city in the midst of change will help inform the public about this movement. Philly D.A. highlights the nuts and bolts of a public institution and prompts questions around the culture that it’s built on, so there’s no more fitting platform to present it on than Independent Lens and PBS where it will be accessible to everyone around the country, and will hopefully provoke the rigorous conversations we should be having around our criminal justice system.”

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