Philadelphia, PA - Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office (DAO)
For ten weeks I worked in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office (DAO). After District Attorney Larry Krasner took office in January 2018, Philadelphia was thrust into the national spotlight as a pioneer of what has been coined “progressive prosecution.” The prosecution has an obligation to see “justice” done, and must consider victims of crime, the safety of the community, and holding accountable those who cause harm. “Progressive prosecutors” have those same goals, they just believe in accomplishing them in a new way. This was an incredibly exciting time for me to be in this office.
I spent most of my summer working with Stoneleigh Fellow Adam Serlin on the development and utilization of an excel-based data management tool to track youth who are arrested in Philadelphia. This project exists at a perfect intersection of my interest in juvenile justice policy and my skills in coding and data analytics. The long term goal is to make this tool free for any party in the city (other offices, non-profits, stakeholders, etc) who would like to customize its infrastructure to improve their own data management. Data management is a huge issue in the public sector. One of the biggest barriers to better practices is cost, which is what Adam ambitiously hopes to eliminate by basing his tool on excel. Good data practices are essential, especially for those who are interested in changing the way things have been done (i.e. progressive prosecutors).
The largest project I worked on was a “snapshot” sheet I created for attorneys to utilize in juvenile court. I was fortunate enough to see this tool piloted and adopted in its first courtroom, Juvenile Treatment Court, during my time in the office. It provides attorneys with quick information on the defender and their supervision history, allowing them to make more informed recommendations in the courtroom. It also forces attorneys to standardize the way they take notes, an essential component of good data practices. I was able to automate the process of producing and printing these “snapshots” based on the dates of court listings, and this process is replacing the files that attorneys previously used. Other projects I worked on included system mapping, developing a codebook (a “key” to help people understand the database), arrest data entry, developing a guide for others to enter data, tracking discrepancies in the city’s data, and a study of youth arrested for gun-related incidents, among other things.
When I wasn’t working, I had the opportunity to explore an incredible city. I spent countless hours meandering through the historic streets of the City of Brotherly Love. Pictured to the left is some of the office at a DAO Phillies game. If I had to describe this summer in one word, it would be: “exciting.” I am hopeful that “progressive prosecution” will find its place in the movement for reform, and I am hopeful that more people will buy into the necessity of better data management and use.