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Local prosecutors are taking bail reform into their own hands, with mixed success.

Philadelphia’s District Attorney Larry Krasner is following through on a campaign promise by instructing prosecutors not to seek bail on a list of 25 criminal charges, including prostitution, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, resisting arrest, and providing false identification to law enforcement.Alec Ward, “Philly D.A. Larry Krasner Ends Cash Bail for Many Offenses, Some Felonies,” Reason, February 22, 2018. Also see “Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner’s Revolutionary Memo,” The Intercept, March 20, 2018; and Brandon E. Patterson, “Philadelphia’s District Attorney Just Showed America’s Prosecutors How to End Mass Incarceration,” Mother Jones, March 14, 2018.

In New York County (Manhattan), District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. announced in January that his office would no longer request money bail in most misdemeanors and violation cases, following a similar 2017 announcement by District Attorney Eric Gonzalez of Brooklyn.Brooklyn has been following a version of this policy since April 2017. Emily Saul, “Manhattan, Brooklyn DAs Are Ending Bail for Non-Felonies,” New York Post, January 9, 2018. “In light of our record-low crime, our national imperative for justice reform, and our moral, generational obligation to close Rikers, it is clear that ending cash bail is an idea whose time has come,” Vance said in his announcement.Saul, “DAs Are Ending Bail,” 2018. But Court Watch NYC, a new program spearheaded by the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, VOCAL-NY, and the 5 Boro Defenders that places volunteer observers in the city’s courtrooms, reported in November that bail is still frequently set for minor offenses—and that even after both Vance and Gonzalez committed to ending prosecution of low-level marijuana offenses, their offices continue to prosecute for these charges.For bail, see Bryce Covert, “The Court Watch Movement Wants to Expose the ‘House of Cards’,” The Appeal, July 16, 2018. For marijuana policies and Court Watch’s report, see Sessi Kuwabara Blanchard, “NYC District Attorneys Have Betrayed Their Promises on Marijuana, Court Watch Reveals,” Filter, November 2, 2018.