Monday, June 8: Philly Defenders March for Black Lives

June 8, 2020 – 3:00 PM: 
Defenders March for Black Lives




On Monday, June 8 at 3:00 p.m., The Defender Association of Philadelphia is joining a nationwide coalition of public defenders who will be marching to protest the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and Ahmaud Arbery, and the systemic injustices faced by Black and Brown communities 




Here in Philly, our march will follow the tumultuous, painful journey too many of our clients endure when they encounter our justice system:
We will meet at the Constitution Center, 525 Arch Street at 3:00 p.m. From there, our march will proceed along the following route, making stops at:
  1. the Roundhouse at 8th and Race;
  2. ICE detention on North 8th Street;
  3. Federal Detention Center;
  4. Family Court; and 
  5. end at the CJC where we take a knee for 8 minutes 46 seconds


Defender Secures Releases for Over 1,000

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Defender representation has secured the release of over 1,000 people since the courts closed on March 16. 
Continue reading “Defender Secures Releases for Over 1,000”

COVID-19 Pandemic: Weekly Expedited Hearing Data

On March 20, three days after the courts closed, the Defender was directed by the FJD that all emergency requests for bail reductions, detainer lifts, and early parole must be filed as written petitions with the court. Since then, the Defender has filed over 1,000 written petitions. Many clients required more than one petition to resolve multiple issues, and some petitions had to be re-filed after the FJD changed its filing rules for emergency petitions on March 23.

As of May 1, 716 of 1,215 petitions that have been decided (58.93%) have been granted.

The FJD agreed to hold expedited release hearings between April 7-9, wherein the Defender and DAO could make oral arguments for bail reductions, detainer lifts, and early parole. The hearings were held in four virtual courtrooms each day, with one Public Defender handling the cases in each room. The cases listed were taken from “presumptive release” case categories created by the DAO in conjunction with the Defender.

The following are weekly summaries that track the success rate of the Defender’s petitions and motions, as well as release numbers: 

Keir Bradford-Grey on Expedited Hearings in Philly Courts

Working with the Courts, the Defender has secured releases for hundreds of clients. This is no time to devote our attention to sensational storylines that distract from or derail the progress we are just beginning to make.

PHILADELPHIA– “Since we began our expedited hearings last week, we’ve worked collaboratively with the District Attorney’s Office and First Judicial District to efficiently hear cases and release hundreds of people from incarceration. It’s important not to allow our issues with a single judge to dominate what is otherwise a positive narrative. 
“Yesterday alone, outside of cases heard by one specific judge, 222–or 60.8%–of our petitions for bail reductions, probation detainer lifts, and early parole motions were granted by the courts. While I stand by the concerns I raised in my email to the FJD, I never intended for this communication to be leaked to the press, nor did I imply that these concerns were representative of the Defender’s view of the entire process, which has been very productive overall. 
“This is a critical moment for our justice system. While we should always be prepared to give and receive constructive criticism, this is no time to devote our attention to sensational storylines that distract from or derail the progress we are just beginning to make.”
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Philly Defender Q&A: COVID-19 Emergency

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Philly’s public defenders know that our clients, their families, and friends are extremely concerned about their health during this pandemic. We’re still doing our best to represent and ensure the health and safety of our clients and our communities, and are working hard to provide you with as much information as we can during these uncertain and stressful times.


What is the status of Philly’s Courts?

Philly’s Courts have begun the process of re-opening, with a number of new restrictions and procedures in place. Things are changing quickly, and the Defender is doing our best to keep track of these changes, and keep you informed. Click here for the latest status on court hearings during the pandemic


What are the Defender’s office hours during the COVID-19 emergency?

Our offices are open, but clients who wish to come in for interviews or other meetings must make an appointment with an attorney in advance.

Our hours are Monday-Friday 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.


I have a court date scheduled. What should I do?

Depending on the type of hearing, you may not be required to appear in court. Click here for an updated status of Philly’s courts.


My loved one has a medical condition that makes them vulnerable to the coronavirus. What should I do?

If you know someone in prison with serious health concerns, please email us right away at Be sure to include the person’s name, date of birth, PP# and any important details, so our Prison Services Unit can look up their case.


My loved one is incarcerated, but not in a Philadelphia county jail. Can the Defender help them?

Unfortunately, we have very little information or solutions for people held in state or federal custody, or those held in local jails outside of the city of Philadelphia. If you have questions about Governor Wolf’s reprieve order that can help some people in PA state custody, please find more information here.  

However, we may be able to help if your loved one has a case in the Philly courts, even if they are being held outside of our jurisdiction. Fill out our online information form if you’re not sure about your loved one’s status.


I have an open case in Philly. How do I know if I’m being represented by a public defender?

If you have an open case in Philly but are unsure whether you are represented by the Defender Association or by a different attorney, you can search by name on this website for your docket to find your attorney and get more information on your case. Whether represented by us or another defense attorney, you can get support on your case or for your loved one by attending weekly online meetings at these community-led Participatory Defense Hubs in Philadelphia.  


I have another question about myself or a loved one. Who can answer my question while your office is closed?

We have an online information form you can fill out by clicking here. Defender staff is monitoring your questions and assigning them to the appropriate attorney or department. 

As you know, people are extremely stressed about the health of their loved ones at this time. We’re getting a lot of questions through this form, so we ask for your patience as we review each question and work to get it the person who can help. 



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Here are some additional information pages that may help you:

What to do if a loved one is incarcerated during the pandemic

What you should know about pretrial supervision during the pandemic

Defender COVID-19 Information Request Form

Defender Frequently Asked Questions


COVID-19 in Philly’s Jails

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In Philly’s jails, the threat posed by pandemics like COVID-19 is not limited to those behind their walls. Corrections officers, administrators and health workers come and go on a daily basis, in addition to the inmates who are released because they make bail or have served their sentence.

For example, New York City’s jail, Riker’s Island, shows how jails allow the virus to spread throughout the community: 180 inmates have tested positive but so have 141 corrections officers and an additional 23 healthcare workers which means that almost half of the people infected are not inmates and have been spreading the virus outside of the jail.

Jail population reduction is the only way to prevent the death of those at highest risk, or spreading it to our communities. It is not possible for county jails to implement the most critical preventive measures set forth in the CDC Guidance: social distancing, preventive hygiene, and the medical isolation of confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases. 


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Click here to view the complete data graphs and information sources.

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The Philadelphia jails are now the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in Philadelphia.
With 39 cases in a population of just 4,357, the Philadelphia jails have a higher infection rate (8.95 per 1,000 people) than any zip code in Philadelphia.


The infection rate in Philly’s jails’is 4.71 times  the rate of Philadelphia
as a whole and over 11 times the rate of Pennsylvania. In fact, the Philadelphia jails’ infection rate has now surpassed that of some of the hardest-hit areas across the globe, including New York City, Lombardy, Italy, and, Wuhan, China.

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Click here to view the complete data graphs and information sources.


Defender, DAO Call for More Progressive Action to Fight Spread of COVID-19

District Attorney Larry Krasner and Chief Defender Keir Bradford-Grey issued the following joint statement calling on the First Judicial District to move more aggressively to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks in the criminal justice system:

PHILADELPHIA– “The Defender Association of Philadelphia and the District Attorney’s Office are glad that the First Judicial District is finally ready to do expedited reviews of specific categories for release from jail. But neither the number of cases nor the timeline proposed by the FJD will be enough to significantly reduce the jail population enough to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our jails and prisons.

“Our efforts to safely reduce our jail population began in early March when we met with the courts to express our concern about the pandemic. Since then, the Defender and the DAO have worked together to identify seven categories of inmates who could potentially be released from jail without impacting public safety, including people who are being held for technical violations of probation; people who have already served their minimum sentence; and people who are detained on less than $50,000 bail.

“Those charged with sex offenses, crimes of violence, including gun offenses, and the sale of drugs weren’t included in our proposals.

“The FJD has agreed to review cases in just three categories, amounting to about 7% of the jail population, and won’t begin hearings until next Tuesday. Our proposal would have granted immediate case reviews for more than 2,000 incarcerated people, nearly half of the jail population, which would allow for the social distancing necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

“Other jurisdictions have worked far more aggressively to reduce their jail populations. Over the last two weeks, Kentucky has seen a state-wide reduction in jail inmates of 28% and the 15 largest counties in Colorado have reduced their jail population by 31%. Even the troubled Riker’s Island’s jail population is below 5,000 — roughly equivalent to ours, although New York is home to five times as many people. Meanwhile, Philadelphia has seen only a 5% reduction since courts were closed on March 17th. 

“Though we often find ourselves on different sides of the courtroom, the District Attorney’s Office and the Defender Association are united by our commitment to do all that we can to prevent unnecessary suffering and death due to a global pandemic that threatens every one of us. Walls, bars, and borders mean nothing to this coronavirus. In order to protect as many Philadelphians as possible from COVID-19, our courts must take immediate and bold action and become part of ongoing comprehensive and collaborative public health and safety efforts.”
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