Mayoral Survey: Jim Kenney

Jim Kenney Reportcard


Will you move forward with Mayor Nutter’s plan to expand the Philadelphia Prison System (PPS)?   


Will you commit to a city-wide moratorium on the construction of new jails and detention centers?    


The Philadelphia Prison System has been subject to decades of litigation based on cruel and inhumane conditions, and recent video has surfaced showing guards assaulting prisoners. What will you do to make sure people’s basic human rights are respected while they are incarcerated?   

During my time on City Council, I raised the issue of our prison conditions on several occasions. When Corizon’s contract to provide medical services was renewed without any public debate, and after multiple complaints both in Philadelphia, and in other states where they operate, I held public hearings to expose those issues and try and force the improvement of conditions. In January 2016 after being sworn in as Mayor, I will ask for total review of Philadelphia’s prison system and its conditions. In the same way that recent reports on the Philadelphia Police Department have found that increased and more frequent training can help avoid hostile situations, the findings of this review will direct the additional training needed for prison staff to ensure proper treatment.

What policy changes would you implement to reduce the number of people in Philadelphia county jails?   

Reducing the daily prison population can and should be done through a robust program of employment opportunities for soon-to-be released individuals, and low-level non-violent offenders. Once these individuals are vetted, they will be partnered with City departments and work side-by-side City workers. Paid a fair wage, these individuals would be part of an electronic-monitored day-release where they work hard and have good examples set for them by our city workers.

In addition, I will work with the 1st Judicial District to try and lessen the number of short-term offenders in our county facilities. Most of our population are low-level offenses serving a short amount of time, or they are more serious offenders who are awaiting transportation to a larger state facility. Lessening the number of low-level offenders will be paramount, but that can only be done if we are also working to ensure they have opportunities back in their neighborhoods that will allow them to avoid future more serious crimes.


Would you end the practice of  “stop and frisk”?   


Do you support an independent community police review board that has subpoena power, shares information with the public, and can hold police and other officials accountable for police brutality and corruption?    

I support an independent community oversight board with many of the powers recommended here. My only concern with the above proposal is with the public dissemination of what could be confidential information. While an investigation is underway I would prefer that the police officer’s personal information remain confidential until charges are brought or the officer is cleared, for both the victim and the officer's safety and for the integrity of the investigation.

Do you believe the arbitration process needs to be reformed so that abusive police officers are not rehired?   


How will you ensure that community safety means communities are safe from police brutality and corruption?   

Improving community/police relationships will be paramount for the next Mayor. A central focus for me will be the development of a real community policing strategy. Police Officers should be out walking in each neighborhood, meeting and engaging in helpful conversations with people. These interactions will go a long way in creating the trust necessary to improve overall conditions. The community members must accept these officers with open arms, and know that any complaints they have against police officers will be investigated and the bad apples will be punished.

Sgt. Brandon Ruff, an eight year veteran of the Philadelphia Police Department, filed a lawsuit stating that the police department encourages and tolerates officers who 'misrepresent facts in order to establish probable cause and allows officers to have persons falsely arrested or maliciously prosecuted.' As mayor, what would you do to address these kinds of allegations and what measures are you willing to take to do so?

Philadelphia police officers swear an oath to uphold the Constitution of the Commonwealth and the United States. If there are officers who misrepresent facts in order to establish probable cause then they need to be held accountable, and they should not be serving as police officers. My appointee as Police Commissioner will have wide latitude to investigate these allegations and ensure there is accountability. Both sides of the story must be heard and recognized, but if the facts bear out a misrepresentation, then the officer should be removed. This must also be done with the FOP. I was able to successfully work with the FOP to gain support for the decriminalization of marijuana, and I believe that I am also in the best position to work collaboratively with them here to achieve any specific changes to the disciplinary process.


Do you think overcharging and the practice of pressuring defendants to take plea bargains is a problem?   


If yes, what do you propose as possible solutions?   

This cycle of plea bargain after plea bargain will have to change if we’re going to be able to lower our prison population. As Mayor, I will work with the District Attorney and Courts to create more diversionary programming that allow people to become productive members of society rather than stuck in prison because of an inability to defend in court against multiples charges and forced to take a plea bargain.

Last year, Mayor Nutter signed a bill decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana. Do you support the decriminalization of marijuana?


What would you do as mayor to change drug policies and enforcement?   

I was the prime sponsor of the City Council ordinance decriminalizing marijuana. It made no sense to me that over four thousand people a year were being saddled with a criminal arrest record for something that wasn’t being prosecuted by the District Attorney.

I believe that the City’s drug policies and enforcement should be focused on getting people the treatment they need. The War on Drugs has failed. We must focus on providing people opportunities to end their addiction and stay drug-free in the future. Putting more and more non-violent offenders in jail is not the answer.

Do you support holding young people under 18 in adult jails? As mayor, would you take steps to remove young people from Philadelphia's adult county jails and place them in juvenile facilities?

No, in the vast majority of cases I do not support holding juveniles in adults jails. Statistics show that juveniles held as adults are 35% likelier to be rearrested than those treated as juveniles. As Mayor, I will work with the District Attorney and Courts to reduce the number of juveniles treated as adults and provide more opportunities for supervised and monitored release as an alternative to incarceration in our county facilities.


Do you support revising the bail guidelines so that an individual’s ability to pay is a clear factor for consideration when a judge sets bail?    


Are you in favor of a person’s bail being reduced or eliminated if their charges are lessened or dismissed?   


The amount of bail set for poor and working class people of color is often disproportionately higher than the amount of bail that is set for white people charged with the same crimes. What will you do to address this?    

Racial or class bias in bail cannot and will not be tolerated. I will work with the District Attorney and the 1st Judicial District to review allegations or bail discrimination and ensure that judges are held accountable for any type of discrimination.

What policies would you support to reduce the number of people held in PPS pretrial?   

Developing a better system of supervised and electronic-monitored release will allow defendants who serve less of a flight risk or danger to remain outside of the prison system before trial. I would also support the development of more diversionary programs so that more defendants can move on and out of the criminal justice system at a greater rate without serving time in PPS and costing the City additional funds.

What would you do to improve pretrial services to people awaiting trial in Philadelphia?

The 2011 Pretrial Justice Institute report provides a number of recommendations to improve internal operations and how the pretrial system, such as expanding pretrial release and adjusting options based on the individual risks posed by each defendant. As Mayor, I will work with the 1st Judicial District to ensure that these recommendations are being adopted, and review where additional changes can be made to ensure efficient use of resources and fairness to defendants.


Do you support imposing jail terms for “contempt of court” and for technical parole violations?   


Do you support diversionary programs and community-based alternatives to incarceration? 


As mayor, what steps would you take to divert more people from incarceration? What policy changes, programs, and alternatives to incarceration do you propose to make communities healthier and safer?   

Alternative sentencing and community service requirements are all better and more productive ways for people to repay their debt to society than being incarcerated for a lengthy period of time. As Mayor, I will work with the District Attorney and the courts to develop guidelines and new practices to expand existing programs and develop new programs for non-violent offenders so they can become productive members of society and improve their communities, and instead of just being taken away from society for months or years.


There are over 200,000 formerly incarcerated people in the city of Philadelphia. Every year, more than 30,000 people return to Philadelphia from federal, state, and county detention. What will you do to help people going through the reentry process? Feel free to tell us about concrete proposals for re-entry services, educational opportunities, and jobs and job training programs for formerly incarcerated people.   

As described above, I believe that the City should provide additional employment opportunities for individuals both released and soon-to-be released doing city work. Through these programs, returning citizens will gain additional civil service credit for their service, giving them a higher likelihood of employment, assuming they have completed their duties well.

Additionally, I was happy to support the City’s ban-the-box ordinance as a Councilmember. Employers have attempted to skirt the intent of this law, however, and the City’s Commission on Human Relations does not have the resources to thoroughly investigate each allegation of wrong-doing. As Mayor, I will ensure that the Commission has these resources, and that employers who break this law are punished and held accountable.

Additionally, the City’s Reintegration Office must do a better job at placing people in permanent employment, not just part-time jobs. The City can place better incentives for companies to hire formerly incarcerated persons, and we can use the expenditure of City funds to require certain hiring practices. Additional access to entrepreneurial training services should be given to formerly incarcerated individuals so they have the ability to start and maintain a business.

I will also work with the City’s many trade unions to ensure that formerly incarcerated persons are given opportunities to join and be trained in skilled labor.

Investment in education, jobs, and community based mental health and drug and alcohol treatment can all help keep people out of prison in the first place. If elected mayor, what will you do to strengthen or create programs and institutions that will keep people out of prison and create healthy, sustainable communities?   

The City’s 26% poverty rate is the great driver of many of our social issues. Also, our underfunded educational system does not provide every child with the education they need to succeed in the future. As Mayor, I will focus on improving our schools by providing universal pre-K to all of the City’s three and four year olds, which will put them on a better path to success from an earlier age. I will also provide substantially more City funding for Philadelphia schools, so that educational outcomes for children through elementary school and high school are improved.

Secondly, I will work to improve the City’s economic situation by focusing on neighborhood corridor economic development. The creation and cultivation of commercial corridors in our neighborhoods will be paramount, and provide stable sources of local jobs. I will also focus on developing new job opportunities for people who do not have advanced degrees. The City’s growth in higher education employment has been great, but we need more businesses that will hire workers who may not have a college or advanced degree. I will focus on bringing those companies to Philadelphia.

Finally, improving our neighborhoods can only happen if they are safe, and the community members trust the police that serve them. Police must, and will in my Administration, become trusted members of each community in which they work.

The Mayor’s Office of Reintegration Services (RISE) has come under criticism for only connecting people with short-term unsustainable jobs. As mayor, what would you do to help people with criminal convictions find long-term employment that pays a living wage?

As mentioned above, My administration will be focused on providing full-time employment options that pay a living wage. I will work to locate and develop businesses in Philadelphia that diversify our economy beyond the traditional Eds and Meds, and create job opportunities for those without a college degree. I will also create opportunities for formerly incarcerated individuals to gain employment with the City and with our trade unions learning real skills. Finally I will improve access to entrepreneurial training so that individuals can learn the skills necessary to develop, maintain, and grow their own business in their neighborhood.