About Philadelphia’s Criminal Justice System and the Public Data Dashboard

The purpose of this website is to provide the public with transparent, comprehensive, and centralized data on the Philadelphia criminal justice system. We hope that Philadelphians will visit this website regularly to learn about long-term criminal justice trends and new metrics, read data stories, and tell us about the kinds of analysis and information you want to see. The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office (DAO) Data Dashboard is a work in progress, but it is our hope that it can help the public hold the District Attorney accountable for ending mass incarceration and mass supervision without endangering public safety.

The DAO Data Dashboard provides an initial data-based framework for understanding how the broad policy efforts that District Attorney Krasner is pursuing relate to the criminal justice system in Philadelphia. For the first time, the public will have access to some basic numbers that describe what is happening in the Philadelphia criminal justice system from the time an incident is first reported until a final disposition. For the first time, the aspirational concept of reducing mass supervision and mass incarceration will become more tangible through a new metric that calculates the number of future years of incarceration and future years of supervision imposed in actual cases on a daily basis.

The Philadelphia DAO plays a pivotal role in the criminal justice system, but does not take part in every aspect of the criminal justice system. As shown in the diagram on the right, the DAO usually doesn’t become involved in a case until after an arrest is made. The taking of an incident report, the investigation of the incident, and the arrest are all done by the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) or other law enforcement agencies such as the State or SEPTA Police. In some cases, in cooperation with other law enforcement agencies, the DAO will be involved in the investigative stage of a case. Examples include homicide cases and cases such as large “drug busts” where the DAO works with the PPD and other law enforcement agencies to develop strong evidence in support of arrest and prosecution.

Following an arrest, the case is then turned over to the DAO, where Assistant District Attorneys (ADAs) in the Charging Unit review the facts of the case to determine if there is sufficient evidence to bring charges and, if so, what charges to bring. Once a case is charged, a Bail Magistrate sets bail based on recommendations by the lawyer for the accused and the DAO. The decisions by the Bail Magistrate determine whether a person will be held without bail (very rare), held with cash bail, or released with only non-monetary conditions (ROR). Those held on cash bail can be released by paying 10% of what they owe. You can see bail breakdowns for various case types in our Bail Report.

Another aspect of charging is diversion. While charging a case, the DAO may decide to divert a defendant into one of the many diversionary programs available. The purpose of these programs is to facilitate community-based alternatives to incarceration for people in need of treatment and support. Diversion can reduce collateral consequences of arrest and reduce recidivism for participants while saving system resources. Diversion is one of several outcomes you can learn more about in our report on Case Outcomes.

If the case is not diverted, it will progress through the criminal justice system until it is resolved by a verdict, guilty plea, dismissal or withdrawal. If the case is resolved by a guilty plea or guilty verdict, the judge will impose a sentence. One way in which the DAO has tried to reduce future years of incarceration and future years of supervision is by making plea offers and sentencing recommendations that are below the lowest level of the Pennsylvania Sentencing Guidelines. To monitor our success look at our reports on Future Years of Incarceration and Future Years of Supervision.

Finally, the DAO is aware that “justice delayed is justice denied,” and is constantly striving to find ways to increase efficiency and decrease unnecessary delays within the system. We believe resolving cases more swiftly improves the deterrent effect of the criminal justice system while reducing the burden of the system on victims and witnesses. To see the results of our efforts look at the report on Case Length.

About the District Attorney’s Transparency Analytics (DATA) Lab

The DATA Lab, operating within the DAO, conducts research, data analysis, and advocacy to build a transparent, accountable prosecutor’s office committed to an anti-racist, anti-sexist, and just criminal legal system.