Op-ed:  Black People Can't Afford to Skip the
May 16th DA's Election

Broken Jail System by Emma Tramble

Did you know that Philadelphia has the highest rate of incarceration among ALL jurisdictions in the United States?

In fact, Philadelphia could be considered a poster child for mass incarceration of African Americans.

You may be thinking it’s because of the amount of violence in the city. Nope. Sixty percent of people in the city’s jails are waiting to go to trial for low-level, non-violent offenses, with a jaw-dropping 72% of them being African Americans.

Let’s put some meat on these numbers’ bones. African Americans from the cradle to 85+ years old make up 42% of Philly’s population. However, Black males 18-64, who are only 14% of Philadelphia’s population, represent the lion’s share of people in jail.

Even though it’s well documented that Philadelphia’s policing policies like Stop and Frisk contribute to disproportionately higher African American arrests, the Cash Bail system slams the door on fairness.

The bail system supposedly ensures that a person shows up to court for their case to be heard. Philly's requirement that you pony up cash for bail leaves folks without money stranded behind bars until their court date.

In Philadelphia, innocence will not keep you from doing time.

The average time spent in a Philly jail is 95 days--four times the national average. Any sort of job can be kissed goodbye. Too often people take pleas to lesser charges to seek some sort of relief, not realizing that they've just signed a bad deal that may follow them for the rest of their lives.

Other cities have figured out how to implement better programs. Our city’s prison system processes over 30,000+ people a year in its largest facility. Are profit and lack of political motivation keeping our city officials from improving a criminal justice system that negatively impacts so many lives?

The District Attorney's Office plays a critical part in who gets charged after an arrest and how the Cash Bail system works. Let’s put pressure on DA candidates to state clearly how they will fix this and other broken and unfair policies.

Black voters make up the largest voting group in Philadelphia. Don't let political corruption sour your view of the power of your vote.

On May 16th, we need to as Martin Luther King, Jr. urged, "March on the ballot boxes" for justice.

*Sources: McArthur Foundation; U.S. Census; Phila. Dept. of Prisons Census; Phila. Dept. of Prisons Website; MLK “March on Ballot Boxes” Speech