Letter: City Council Support for Budget Increase

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Thanks to City Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson for putting together this letter in support of the Defender’s request for a $5.8 million budget increase. Also thanks to the 12 additional Councilmembers who signed the letter: 

  • Jamie Gauthier (3rd District)
  • Maria Quinones-Sanchez (7th District)
  • Isaiah Thomas (At Large)
  • Curtis Jones, Jr. (4th District)
  • Mark Squilla (1st District)
  • Helen Gym (At Large)
  • Cindy Bass (8th District)
  • Cherrelle Parker (9th District)
  • Derek Greene (At Large)
  • Allan Domb (At Large)
  • Kendra Brooks (At Large)
  • Katherine Gilmore Richardson (At Large)

Read the full text of the letter below, or download it here[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css=”.vc_custom_1651849253008{padding-top: 20px !important;padding-right: 20px !important;padding-bottom: 20px !important;padding-left: 20px !important;background-color: #ffffff !important;}”][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Full text of the letter from City Council:

Mayor James F. Kenney 
City of Philadelphia

Re: The Defender Association of Philadelphia FY23 budget increase

Dear Mayor Kenney,

We believe that the FY23 budget should include a $5.8 million increase for the Defender Association of Philadelphia. The Sixth Amendment guarantees a defendant’s right to effective assistance of counsel in order to increase the fairness and likelihood of justice ultimately being reached in a criminal justice system. Our public defenders experienced unprecedented challenges throughout the past few years during the COVID-19 pandemic. They have acted as first responders and continued to advocate for their defendants while putting their own lives at risk, never resting in the defense of their clients.

The Defender Association is asking for a $5.8 million budget increase that would allow the ability to pay their non-legal staff a living wage and would allow them to attract and retain well qualified attorneys. $3.8 million would be allocated for salary increases for the non-attorney and administrative staff. Currently 45% of the non-legal staff earn less than $40,000, which leaves many having to work multiple jobs to make ends meet. The proposal would allow for a salary increase to a livable wage of $40,000, which is in line with the pay of other comparable cities.  

The remaining $2 million would be allocated for increased pay for attorneys to allow the Defender’s Association to become more competitive with their hiring. Private legal employers aggressively recruit with salary increases and signing bonuses, which increases the difficulty of recruitment. There is also a struggle to competitively recruit applicants from the same pool as the District Attorney’s office is due to the fact that the Defenders Association is only able to offer 89 cents to their dollar. The proposed increases in pay are beneficial retention strategies that would allow for hardworking staff and attorneys to be fairly compensated and would allow the Defender’s Association to continue to hire qualified individuals.

Pennsylvania is the only state that doesn’t provide state funding for public defenders, making the funding we provide vital for many Philadelphians who find themselves enmeshed with the criminal justice system. A lack of resources can lead to an unfair fight and leaves low-income defendants who are represented by overburdened public defenders more likely to be wrongfully convicted or receive longer sentences.

As a city, if we truly believe that Black Lives Matter then we should have a budget that reflects those values and fights for those most in need. We believe that the Defender Association of Philadelphia should receive a $5.8 million increase in their FY23 budget so that they can continue working to protect our citizen’s constitutional rights.

 

Yours sincerely,[/vc_column_text][vc_row_inner css=”.vc_custom_1651849243274{margin-top: 20px !important;padding-top: 20px !important;padding-right: 20px !important;padding-bottom: 20px !important;padding-left: 20px !important;}”][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]Kenyatta Johnson (2nd District)

Jamie Gauthier (3rd District)

Maria Quinones-Sanchez (7th District)

Isaiah Thomas (At Large)

Curtis Jones, Jr. (4th District)

Mark Squilla (1st District)[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]Helen Gym (At Large)

Cindy Bass (8th District)

Cherrelle Parker (9th District)

Derek Greene (At Large)

Allan Domb (At Large)

Kendra Brooks (At Large)[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Next Shop Talk: May 6, 2022

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WHEN: Friday, May 6 from 2-6 p.m.

WHERE: Glocawear Radio/The Gloc Shop, 4933 Old York Road

We’re teaming up with Philly’s #1 internet radio station and our community partners for our next Shop Talk event, featuring: 

Expungement Clinics

Community voices: Open criminal justice system discussion

Trainings and workshops

FREE food from Victoria’s Kitchen

Music playlist by Tucann

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css=”.vc_custom_1651234765381{margin-top: 30px !important;padding-top: 20px !important;padding-bottom: 20px !important;background-color: #58cbbd !important;}”][vc_column][vc_raw_html]JTNDZGl2JTIwaWQlM0QlMjd3aWJiaXR6LXBsYXllciUyNyUyMGRhdGEtdmlkZW8taWQlM0QlMjdiNjlkYzRkNzc5ODIzNDk3OWE3NDkxNDE0MDk1MTQxOTAlMjclMjBkYXRhLXB1Ymxpc2hlci1pZCUzRCUyNzYyODk1JTI3JTIwZGF0YS1mb3JtYXQlM0QlMjdsYW5kc2NhcGUlMjclM0UlMEElMDklMDklMDklMDklM0NkaXYlMjBjbGFzcyUzRCUyMndpYmJpdHotdmlkZW8tcGxheWVyJTIyJTIwc3R5bGUlM0QlMjJkaXNwbGF5JTNBJTIwZmxleCUzQiUyMGp1c3RpZnktY29udGVudCUzQSUyMGNlbnRlciUzQiUyMGFsaWduLWl0ZW1zJTNBJTIwY2VudGVyJTNCJTIwd2lkdGglM0ElMjAxMDAlMjUlM0IlMjBoZWlnaHQlM0ElMjAxMDAlMjUlM0IlMjIlM0UlMEElMDklMDklMDklMDklMDklM0NpbWclMjBzcmMlM0QlMjJodHRwcyUzQSUyRiUyRnB1Ymxpc2hlci1tZWRpYS53aWJiaXR6LmNvbSUyRnByb2QtbWVkaWElMkZiNjlkYzRkNzc5ODIzNDk3OWE3NDkxNDE0MDk1MTQxOTAlMkYxMWM0YWFlOWMwZTg0MmY2YTFlMzZiNjkzN2EzZjIzMy5qcGVnJTIyJTIwc3R5bGUlM0QlMjJib3JkZXItcmFkaXVzJTNBJTIwOHB4JTNCJTIwd2lkdGglM0ElMjAxMDAlMjUlM0IlMjBoZWlnaHQlM0ElMjAxMDAlMjUlM0IlMjIlM0UlMEElMDklMDklMDklMDklMDklM0NkaXYlMjAlMEElMDklMDklMDklMDklMDlzdHlsZSUzRCUyMmRpc3BsYXklM0ElMjBmbGV4JTNCJTIwYmFja2dyb3VuZC1jb2xvciUzQSUyMHJnYmElMjgyMyUyQyUyMDI4JTJDJTIwNDglMkMlMjAwLjQlMjklM0IlMjB3aWR0aCUzQSUyMDEwMCUyNSUzQiUyMCUwQSUwOSUwOSUwOSUwOSUwOWhlaWdodCUzQSUyMDEwMCUyNSUzQiUyMGp1c3RpZnktY29udGVudCUzQSUyMGNlbnRlciUzQiUyMGFsaWduLWl0ZW1zJTNBJTIwY2VudGVyJTNCJTIwcG9zaXRpb24lM0ElMjBhYnNvbHV0ZSUzQiUyMiUzRSUwQSUwOSUwOSUwOSUwOSUwOSUwOSUzQ2RpdiUyMHN0eWxlJTNEJTIyd2lkdGglM0ElMjA0OHB4JTNCJTIwJTBBJTA5JTA5JTA5JTA5JTA5JTA5aGVpZ2h0JTNBJTIwNDhweCUzQiUyMCUwQSUwOSUwOSUwOSUwOSUwOSUwOWRpc3BsYXklM0ElMjBmbGV4JTNCJTIwanVzdGlmeS1jb250ZW50JTNBJTIwY2VudGVyJTNCJTIwYWxpZ24taXRlbXMlM0ElMjBjZW50ZXIlM0IlMjBiYWNrZ3JvdW5kLWNvbG9yJTNBJTIwd2hpdGUlM0IlMjBib3JkZXItcmFkaXVzJTNBJTIwNTAlMjUlM0IlMjIlM0UlMEElMDklMDklMDklMDklMDklMDklMDklM0NpbWclMjBzcmMlM0QlMjJodHRwcyUzQSUyRiUyRnN0dWRpby53aWJiaXR6LmNvbSUyRnJlc291cmNlcyUyRmltYWdlcyUyRmVtYmVkJTJGcGxheS1pY29uLnBuZyUyMiUyRiUzRSUwQSUwOSUwOSUwOSUwOSUwOSUwOSUzQyUyRmRpdiUzRSUwQSUwOSUwOSUwOSUwOSUwOSUzQyUyRmRpdiUzRSUwQSUwOSUwOSUwOSUwOSUzQyUyRmRpdiUzRSUwQSUwOSUwOSUwOSUzQyUyRmRpdiUzRSUwQSUwOSUwOSUwOSUzQ3NjcmlwdCUyMHNyYyUzRCUyN2h0dHBzJTNBJTJGJTJGZW1iZWQud2liYml0ei5jb20lMkZ3aWJiaXR6LWVtYmVkLmpzJTI3JTNFJTNDJTJGc2NyaXB0JTNF[/vc_raw_html][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Next Shop Talk: April 20, 2022

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Join us from 3-6 p.m. on Wednesday, April 20 at
Mike’s Raw Cutz, 5640 Chew Avenue

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css=”.vc_custom_1649427656111{padding-top: 20px !important;padding-bottom: 20px !important;background-color: #c0eefd !important;}”][vc_column][vc_column_text]We’re back and in-person to provide the community with FREE legal workshops and information:

  • “Know Your Rights: What to do When You Come Into Contact with Law Enforcement” 
  • “Expungement: What is it, and How Will it Impact Me?”
  • “Know Your Statutes: PWID – Possession with Intent to Distribute”

Plus:

  • Information and giveaways from our community partners
  • FREE food from Victoria’s Kitchen! 

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css=”.vc_custom_1649427937679{margin-top: 20px !important;background-color: #263797 !important;}”][vc_column][vc_column_text]For more information, contact Guy Lang: glang@philadefender.org[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Keisha Hudson on “Shortchanging” Public Defender Budget

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Not providing the Defender Association with the requested budget increase will shortchange everyone who relies on a fair and efficient justice system. 

 

PHILADELPHIA–“The Defender Association of Philadelphia is extremely dismayed that the Mayor’s proposed budget does not include any increase to Defender’s budget or value the services we provide to the community.

“At a time when the number of court cases is on the rise, our office was hoping to be able to provide needed salary increases to give us parity with other city agencies, and help us attract and retain more attorneys and non-legal staff. 

“This is an issue of fairness and efficiency. The Defender’s administrative staff is paid much less on average than their counterparts in just about every other City of Philadelphia agency. Many of our staff members have told us they need to take second jobs to make ends meet.

“The inherent unfairness of paying predominantly Black and Brown employees less than any other agency or office speaks for itself. But it’s particularly galling when we know that nearly every city agency received increases under the Mayor’s budget proposal, and many of these increases are significant. 

“Like our attorneys, our administrative and support staff are critical to the Defender’s ability to process cases and provide the best possible representation for our clients. The low wages and increasing workload are driving staff and attorney attrition in our office, and are an impediment to hiring replacements when they leave us to work at other agencies or companies. That’s why addressing pay parity has been a top priority as we negotiate our first collective bargaining agreement with the union representing our attorneys. 

“The economic injustice for our staff is compounded by the impact on our justice system. A Defender office that can’t adequately keep pace with the increasing court cases will bog down our courts. It leads to more people languishing in jail waiting for their trials, which contributes to the existing social and economic crises for their families and communities. These conditions only contribute to the violence and public safety crisis that Philadelphia is currently experiencing.

“In the coming days, we will continue to publicly and privately advocate for the funding increase we requested in our budget submission to the City. We will continue to fight for parity for our attorneys and staff. And we will continue to argue that failure to adequately fund the Defender Association not only impacts our clients, but everyone who counts on our judicial system to fairly and efficiently dispense justice.” 

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Watch: Philly Defenders talk Probation Reform

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The Defender’s Kate Parker (Policy Director) and Byron Cotter (Director, Alternative Sentencing) spoke with Dolly Prabhu (Abolitionist Law Center) and Andy Hover (ACLU-PA) about the problems with PA’s probation system, and how fixing it will make our communities safer. Watch the full video below.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css=”.vc_custom_1648497687009{margin-top: 20px !important;}”][vc_column][vc_raw_html]JTNDY2VudGVyJTNFJTNDaWZyYW1lJTIwd2lkdGglM0QlMjIxMjgwJTIyJTIwaGVpZ2h0JTNEJTIyNzIwJTIyJTIwc3JjJTNEJTIyaHR0cHMlM0ElMkYlMkZ3d3cueW91dHViZS5jb20lMkZlbWJlZCUyRlVYb0pGZ2llS2w4JTIyJTIwdGl0bGUlM0QlMjJZb3VUdWJlJTIwdmlkZW8lMjBwbGF5ZXIlMjIlMjBmcmFtZWJvcmRlciUzRCUyMjAlMjIlMjBhbGxvdyUzRCUyMmFjY2VsZXJvbWV0ZXIlM0IlMjBhdXRvcGxheSUzQiUyMGNsaXBib2FyZC13cml0ZSUzQiUyMGVuY3J5cHRlZC1tZWRpYSUzQiUyMGd5cm9zY29wZSUzQiUyMHBpY3R1cmUtaW4tcGljdHVyZSUyMiUyMGFsbG93ZnVsbHNjcmVlbiUzRSUzQyUyRmlmcmFtZSUzRSUzQyUyRmNlbnRlciUzRQ==[/vc_raw_html][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Feb. 24: Defender Testimony on PA Sentencing Guideline Proposals

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1645719737897{padding-top: 20px !important;padding-right: 20px !important;padding-bottom: 20px !important;padding-left: 20px !important;background-color: #263797 !important;}”]On February 24, 2022, Chief Defender Keisha Hudson testified before the PA Sentencing Commission with recommendations on the Commission’s proposed updates to sentencing guidelines. 

Read the full testimony below, or download it here

Click here to download the supplemental document: Proposed OGS mitigating factors[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1645720075520{padding-top: 20px !important;padding-right: 20px !important;padding-bottom: 20px !important;padding-left: 20px !important;background-color: #ffffff !important;}”]On behalf of the Defender Association of Philadelphia, I want to thank the PA Sentencing Commission for convening this series of hearings on the new proposed sentencing guidelines.

As the largest criminal defense law firm in the Commonwealth, the Defender has a practitioner’s understanding of how changes to sentencing guidelines impact people accused of crimes in Philadelphia. We’re very happy to share our perspectives with you this morning.

 

Defender’s Overall Read on the Sentencing Guidelines

Currently, the courts use a sentencing matrix based on 2 factors:

  1. An Offense Gravity (OG) score designed to measure the seriousness of the offense; and
  2. A Prior Record (PR) score, or accounting of the accused’s previous number and types of convictions

These guidelines are not binding on the court, and they provide a range that judges can use to guide their sentencing decisions. Judges aren’t required to follow it – but if they choose to, following the guidelines likely puts them on safer legal ground if the sentence is appealed.

The proposed guidelines make some substantial changes to the recommended sentences for judges to impose. We think that many of these have the potential to be positive, and we commend the Commission’s efforts to mitigate the racial disparities that have been created when our system uses past criminal convictions to trigger enhanced sentencing.

However, we also want to urge the Commission to ensure that the more equitable outcomes we all seek are not diminished by potential exceptions or refinements to these rules. For example, it is essential that periods of incarceration do not toll or interrupt the periods of time calculated as ‘crime free’ for lapsing convictions.

We would like to highlight some areas that do concern us as direct practitioners. Notably, the overwhelmingly majority of the sentencing options call for a custodial sentence and not for restorative sanctions and many of the circumstances for which restorative sanctions are recommended are unlikely to occur in our practice.

Offenses with low OG scores of 2—like tampering with Kosher food or burning a flag—are charges rarely, if ever, seen in Philadelphia. Notably, we didn’t see any offenses designated as a “1,” and recommend that some offenses should be assigned to the lowest possible score. We would also recommend that the section that includes restorative sanctions recommendations be expanded.

 

Concerns with Offense Gravity Scores

Expanding the number of OG scores and consolidating the number of PR scores effectively narrows the range of recommended sentences on the grid. Additionally, the range by which the sentence may be impacted by aggravating and mitigating factors (the plus/minus on the right side of the matrix) is also much smaller. This may limit the effect of mitigating information presented by Defenders on the client’s actual sentence since the range of sentences the courts may impose, while still remaining within the recommended guidelines, is smaller.

We’re also concerned that, while there is substantial opportunity for aggravating factors to enhance the OG scores, there are not equal opportunities for mitigating factors to reduce the OGS. In fact, the only two factors courts can consider in reducing the gravity of the offense are not related to the circumstances or nature of the offense, but to the defendant’s acceptance of a plea or willingness to cooperate with law enforcement.

To address this inequity, the Defender proposes incorporating a list of 12 factors that will help to ensure the OG score reflects the unique circumstances presented by the facts of the case and the individual appearing before the Court for sentencing.

We have attached all 12 factors to our testimony, and won’t read through them all here, but they include factors like:

  • The defendant’s conduct neither caused nor threatened serious harm (-1);
  • There were substantial grounds tending to excuse or justify the defendant’s conduct, though failing to establish a defense (-2); and
  • The defendant has no history of prior delinquency or criminal activity or has led a law-abiding life for a substantial period of time before the commission of the present offense (-2)

We’re also concerned about the OG score enhancement that arises from association with a criminal gang.

  • The definition of a criminal gang is overwhelmingly broad and presents real challenges for our clients and the communities they represent.
  • For example: since drug distribution, by definition, frequently involves 3 or more persons, this provision could inadvertently be used to enhance the gravity score for every type of drug case.
  • While we recommend removing this provision altogether, we would at least urge the commission to adopt a more specific definition to trigger the gang affiliation enhancement.

We are equally troubled that some sentencing enhancements are already elements of the underlying offense, which raises the very real concern that without specific limiting language, they will be double counted. Similarly, we urge the Commission to include language that prohibits the ‘stacking’ of multiple aggravating factors to enhance the OGS.

 

PR Score Concerns

We would like to point out that, while aggregating the PR score will likely benefit clients with longer or more serious records, it is also likely to result in harsher treatment for clients with less serious, but perhaps more frequent, contacts with the justice system. Specifically, it’s too easy for the accused to be considered a “medium” for prior record calculations. This is particularly true for clients with a history of substance use or mental health issues.

We urge the Commission to allow for greater differentiation so that one prior conviction for felony shoplifting isn’t treated the same way as one prior conviction for felony rape under the guidelines.

We also urge the Commission to keep repeat instances for possessory offenses, retail theft, and thefts under an F2 as a low offender for PR score.

 

Conclusion

Once again, I want to thank the Sentencing Commission for undertaking these public hearings to address these serious and complex issues, and for including the Defender Association in this collaborative and thoughtful process.

I invite and encourage you to reach out to our office if you want to further discuss any of the topics I mentioned here or have any additional questions.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Full Video: “Rage of Innocence” Webinar

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Watch the full video from our Feb. 17 Webinar with Chief Defender Keisha Hudson and Professor Kristin Henning! 

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Thursday, February 17:
Rage of Innocence: How America Criminalizes Black Youth.

Kristin Henning

Join us via Zoom on February 17 for a timely and important discussion of our criminal justice system as Chief Defender Keisha Hudson speaks with Georgetown Law Professor Kristin Henning. They’ll be discussing Professor Henning’s book, Rage of Innocence-How America Criminalizes Black Youth. 

Read more about Professor Hennings’s book here

Learn more about Kristin Henning here.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Full Video: MLK Day Shop Talk!

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Watch the Full Video of our MLK Day Shop Talk event!

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MLK Day Shop Talk Workshops & Highlights:

  • Criminal Record Expungement Information Provided by the Defender Association
  • “School Discipline 101 for Students and Parents” Presented by Ashli Giles-Perkins, Esq., Education Law Center-PA
  • “Critical Race Theory for Students” Presented by Shyann V. Gales-Poland, Esq.
  • “Collective Resistance Through Hip Hop” Presented by Michael Coard, Esq. Nat Turner Law School

ALSO: Our partners, Victoria’s Kitchen and Sicklerville Soul provided FREE meals for Shop Talk attendees!

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Follow us: @PhillyDefenders