Criminal Justice

Larry Krasner: Are Progressive Prosecutors Responsible for the Urban Crime Spike?

Q&A with Philadelphia's district attorney, who is facing an impeachment threat because of rising crime.



Larry Krasner wants to fix America's criminal justice system, which imprisons more people per capita than any other country on the planet. Since 2018, he's served as the district attorney of Philadelphia—one of America's most highly incarcerated and crime-ridden cities.

Krasner spent three decades as a criminal and civil rights defense attorney before deciding to run for office.

"Our movement did the uncomfortable thing: We took back power," he wrote in a memoir about his successful 2017 run to become Philadelphia's district attorney. "We outsiders went inside and took over the institution we had fought against all our lives."

In his first week as D.A., Krasner fired 31 staffers and replaced them with a new team that he described as "ideologically attached to the mission."

"It's a pretty basic mission for people who are in favor of freedom," Krasner tells Reason. "One of those missions is to be less incarcerated than Vladimir Putin's Russia. I don't think that should be very controversial."

Krasner won reelection easily last year, but today he's under intense pressure. Philadelphia posted a record 562 murders in 2021, and it's on pace for a similar outcome in 2022. The Republican-led state Legislature has begun impeachment proceedings against him.

Reason's Zach Weissmueller sat down with Krasner in his office to talk about his reforms, his city's spike in violent crime, the heat that progressive prosecutors are feeling in places like Los Angeles and San Francisco, and what that means for the future of American criminal justice reform.

Additional links to data referenced in this podcast:

Decriminalisation of Drugs What can we learn from Portugal? by Pierre Andersson

The Red State Murder Problem, by Kylie Murdock and Jim Kessler of Third Way

Pennsylvania Uniform Crime Reporting System

Philadelphia Police Department's crime maps and statistics

Fort Worth's Updated 2020 4th Quarter Crime Report

"Murder rate in Jacksonville dropped 23% in 2021 compared to 2020, according to sheriff," by Heather Crawford

"Homicides and overall violent crime are up in Philadelphia," by Isaac Avilucea

FBI historic crime statistics by city and region