Skip to content
CityLab
Justice

The Next Test for Bail Reform: Prosecutors

Philadelphia’s district attorney ran on an agenda to reform his city’s criminal justice system. Now he’s starting to with a new policy on bail. The question is: Can it work?
Larry Krasner walks away from his polling place on Nov. 7, 2017. He won the race to become Philadelphia's district attorney.
Larry Krasner walks away from his polling place on Nov. 7, 2017. He won the race to become Philadelphia's district attorney.Matt Rourke/AP

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner was elected last November on a platform for change. In the earlier primary of seven Democrats who ran to be the city’s prosecutor, all pledging to reform the criminal justice system, he was the most politically progressive. The question was: Could he succeed where others have failed?

Last week Krasner took his first significant step toward that goal, and for many activists it’s a promising one. He announced his office would no longer seek cash bail when charging defendants with 25 different crimes, including prostitution, retail theft, and trespassing. Reducing reliance on cash bail—the system by which people who can’t afford to pay are held in jail while they await trial—has been one of the top priorities of reform-minded prosecutors and other criminal justice reform advocates.