Philadelphia has reduced its prison population by almost 20 percent in just two years, and hopes to achieve a 34 percent reduction by 2019. That success is part of an ambitious experiment in criminal justice reform. It’s one that officials hope will serve as a model for how cities can address mass incarceration, despite the tough-on-crime rhetoric of the Trump administration.
The president has consistently portrayed U.S. cities as hotbeds of crime and dysfunction, even threatening to “bring in the feds,” to address “carnage” in Chicago earlier this year. Meanwhile, Attorney General Jeff Sessions seems intent on reviving the war on drugs, curtailing Obama-era reforms that would reduce sentences for low-level drug offenses. Despite those challenges at the federal level, Philadelphia continues to fight for a more progressive way to handle crime. Here’s how the city has found success so far, and why officials are worried that the Trump administration could disrupt their progress.