On Wednesday, March 21, the Princeton Club of Philadelphia gathered for a special forum on crime reduction in Philadelphia. Entitled “Breaking the Cycle of Violence,” the forum was put together by current PP55 Fellow, Joseph Sengoba ’10. The forum featured a keynote address by Seth Williams, the District Attorney of the City of Philadelphia. Williams spoke about the changes he has made during his two-year tenure as District Attorney as well as his vision for an effective DA’s office. One of his goals has been to implement community-wide partnerships to address the challenges facing Philadelphia. In addition, at the core of his strategy on crime prevention is the belief that it is the certainty, and not the severity, of punishment that deters crime and reduces recidivism. With this in mind, Williams has recently implemented several community-based diversion programs for low-risk and non-violent offenders that are intended to provide these individuals with the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in their communities while providing an overall reduction in the crime rate.
The forum also featured a panel, composed of leaders in the Philadelphia criminal justice community, that provided a variety of perspectives on the issue of breaking the cycle of violence in Philadelphia. Panelists included Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Chief of Staff for Mayor Nutter Everett Gillison, Executive Director of Center City Crime Victim Services Sherry Hunter, Assistant Chief of Appeals Larry Goode ’84, and Deputy District Attorney Laurie Malone. Touching on issues such as poverty, failing schools, and broken communities, each panelist spoke from his/her experience to outline the efforts of the criminal justice community to change the trajectory of Philadelphia’s most disadvantaged citizens.
The overall takeaway from the evening was that in many places, Philadelphia’s communities are broken and in order to tackle the many public safety challenges they face, its citizens need to become more accountable to each other.
By Joseph Sengoba ’10, 2011-2012 Project 55 Fellow and Katherine Chatelaine, Project 55 Fellowship Program Assistant