Criminal Justice Reform: Policy, Action and Voting

Criminal justice reform is equal parts policy, action and voting: we need to vote for candidates who will put policy into action. This understanding is starting to become a center point in municipal and state legislature elections, especially in Pennsylvania. Progressive, common sense, criminal justice reform debate was at the forefront of the recent District Attorney’s race in Philadelphia, forcing most candidates to develop lengthy positions on reforming the cash bail system, over-criminalization, mandatory minimums, day-reporting and detainer reform, among other policies.

On February 12, Represent PAC joined host Dr. Eileen Bazelon, a long-time Psychiatrist and professor in Philadelphia, for a roundtable discussion on Criminal Justice Reform: how lawmakers can make the most impact, why change is not happening and how your advocacy can help push reform forward. The roundtable featured women from every intersection of our criminal justice system, and the avenues to reform it. Our guests heard from Dana Bazelon, a former Defense attorney now working for DA Larry Krasner in Philadelphia, Marsha Levick of the Juvenile Law Center, Nyssa Taylor of the ACLU and Representative Donna Bullock of the PA Legislature.

They say all politics is local; so is criminal justice reform. Our panelists discussed the social issues facing youth in the Commonwealth and the institutional problems that affect the size and policies of our justice systems. Pennsylvania and Philadelphia specifically are poised right now to prove that politicians can be "smart on crime" instead of "tough on crime" and that it will make us more just and safer as a community. The linkage between family and social issues and community safety are well understood by many legislators and this talented panel gave us the information and motivation to act.

“Women have higher rates of trauma and mental health issues when they are incarcerated. Those issues will not be brought to the table if we are not there,” said Rep. Bullock. “It’s important to get involved and call your legislators to make sure they are voting on the right sides of these issues.”

Progressive women will be the champions our criminal justice system has been waiting for, be it drafting legislation, from behind the bench as judges and in row offices across the country. This issue is profound, multifaceted and a justifiable voting issue in 2018.

Where does your State Representative stand on criminal justice reform? Find out today.