A Gimmick or a Good Thing? Philly DA Hopeful Dons an Ankle Bracelet

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A Gimmick or a Good Thing? Philly DA Hopeful Dons an Ankle Bracelet

Post  Yoke on Thu Sep 17, 2009 5:13 pm

http://criminaljustice.change.org/blog/view/a_gimmick_or_a_good_thing_philly_da_hopeful_dons_an_ankle_bracelet


You can find him here.

The map above shows the exact location of Philadelphia's Republican DA candidate Michael Untermeyer when I visited his site a few hours ago. He strapped on an ankle bracelet on Wednesday and he'll wear it for 30 days in a gimmicky attempt to bring attention to an important issue: the over-incarceration of Philadelphia residents.

Untermeyer's point is that the city could take advantage of electronic monitoring in order to offer parole to thousands of non-violent offenders, relieving prison overcrowding and giving people convicted of crimes a second chance. And he's right.

The financial argument for monitoring is a strong one, as the city spends $97 a day keeping someone in prison, compared to less than eight bucks for a day of monitoring. The societal gains of expanded monitoring and decreased incarceration are far greater - people awaiting trial don't have to lose their jobs, their families don't lose support, they can continue being a parent. The list goes on.

Untermeyer's opponent, Seth Williams, called the move a gimmick. I agree, that's what it is. But good political campaigns have good gimmicks. Calling attention to over-incarceration can only be a bad thing if Untermeyer is elected and then conveniently forgets to take on this issue.

Gimmick or not, both Williams and Untermeyer are talking about alternatives to incarceration, and that's a refreshing thing in a DA race, another sign that the times are a-changin.

Untermeyer's claims could be pandering, and Williams' website at least promises more holistic reform than Untermeyer's. Williams supports an expansion of drug courts and better communication between police and parole - a critical step I mentioned yesterday in a post about the Phillip Garrido case.

An aside: Williams has at least one skeleton to clear from his closet during this campaign, and I'll be writing more about this in the days ahead. He was the prosecutor in the unjust convictions of Julio Maldonado and Denis Calderon, a case in desperate need of another look. Dave Bennion examined the case thoroughly in a post on Immigration blog here.[img][/img]

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