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In the months leading up to the November election for Philadelphia's district attorney, Penn Democrats rallied behind the unlikely progressive candidate Larry Krasner, who ultimately pulled ahead in the polls and was sworn in on Jan. 2.

Three days later, Philadephia's new Democratic DA began his term by dismissing 31 members of his 534-person staff, or just over five percent of the office. 

College junior and Penn Democrats Communications Director Jack Weisman said Penn Dems supports what Krasner chose to do because this kind of change could be evidence that he will truly work toward the larger changes he promised to bring to Philadelphia.

“His unique background is going to provide a significant cultural change for the city and for the DA’s office,” Weisman said, referencing Krasner’s background as a civil rights and defense attorney.

According to Philly.com, Krasner’s office has yet to release the names of every staff member who was dismissed, though early reports indicate many were career prosecutors who had worked at the DA’s office for decades. 

College and Wharton sophomore Michael Moroz, a member of Penn College Republicans' editorial board, said he was disappointed with Krasner's decision.

“There’s an American tradition that when someone wins an election, they don’t clear out house completely,” Moroz said.

But Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney says that a move like this one is not unprecedented, and is well within the rights of the new district attorney.

"As an independently elected official, the district attorney is certainly entitled to reorganize his office however he would like," Kenney said. "These are personnel decisions; every newly elected office holder makes changes."

David Rudovsky, a civil rights attorney and senior fellow at Penn Law, agrees that Krasner’s choice is not unusual. 

“You’ve got to look at the dismissals in context: It’s one part of a much larger package that’s going on,” Rudovsky said. “I think we need a very significant change in prosecutorial practices and policies in this city.”

During his campaign, Krasner promised to bring serious criminal justice reform to Philadelphia, which has the highest rate of incarceration per capita among the country's 10 largest cities, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. His proposed policies include eliminating the death penalty, taking steps to eliminate illegal use of stop and frisk, and finding alternatives to incarceration — policies that Moroz called "lax."

“On multiple levels Krasner is making the city, at least theoretically, safer for criminals,” Moroz said. “When you make life easier for criminals, you can expect criminality to increase.” 

Rudovsky disagrees.

“I think you can have safety without over-incarceration,” he said. “I think that Larry Krasner will vigorously prosecute serious crime, but will also make sure it’s done fairly.”

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