Defender Association Response to Kensington “Sweep”

PHILADELPHIA–“The Defender Association fully realizes that immediate action is needed to address the conditions in Kensington. But the City’s May 8 “sweep” of homeless people signals a return to draconian and ineffective crime and drug policies. We are also troubled by the lack of communication we have received from the city in advance of these actions. This information vacuum is particularly concerning as it potentially compromises our ability to serve our clients.


“To be sure, the Defender Association and the Parker Administration have very different policy perspectives. We have long believed that it’s a bad idea to rely on the criminal legal system to solve a public health crisis. The unintended harms of the planned “jail vs. treatment” strategy outweigh any derived benefits for people in addiction. The city’s action’s also threaten to overwhelm the court and jail system, and will likely shift the current problem to other neighborhoods that haven’t been receiving the same amount of attention.


“Despite our efforts to be included in the discussions around Kensington, the Defender Association has received little information about the city’s plans. This is troubling because our office represents a significant percentage of adult men and women from Kensington. From 2017 to 2022 we provided services for nearly 12,000 clients from this neighborhood. Getting timely details about upcoming plans is critical for preparing our attorneys and social workers to serve what will undoubtedly be an uptick in cases stemming from the increased law enforcement activity.


“We can discuss and debate policy. But there’s no question that anyone arrested for a crime–in Kensington or elsewhere–has a right to legal counsel. As the city’s public defender, we feel it is incumbent upon the city to include our office in any discussion that relies so heavily on our justice system.”


“As we work toward solutions that will benefit everyone impacted by the activities in Kensington, the Defender Association looks forward to a more open dialogue with city officials and stakeholders.”


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