In 2017, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania had one of the highest incarceration rates of any major city in the United States. And it’s become the epicenter of a historic experiment that could shape the future of prosecution in America for decades to come. When civil rights attorney Larry Krasner mounted a long-shot campaign to become District Attorney, he ran on a bold pledge: to end mass incarceration by changing the culture of the criminal justice system from within. He shocked the establishment by winning in a landslide.
Now, the bureaucrats he spent his campaign denigrating are his co-workers; the police he alienated are his rank-and-file law enforcers. Pressure comes from all sides of a system resistant to reform. Krasner’s unapologetic promise to use the power of the D.A.’s office for sweeping change is what got him elected; now that he’s in office, that same stubbornness threatens to alienate those he needs to work with the most.
From the eye of this political storm, filmmakers Ted Passon, Yoni Brook, and Nicole Salazar gained unprecedented access into Krasner’s office and behind the scenes of the criminal justice system. Over the course of eight episodes, Philly D.A. explores the most pressing social issues of our time—police brutality, the opioid crisis, gun violence, and mass incarceration—through the lens of an idealistic team attempting fundamental overhaul from within the system.
Why Even Have Cash Bail? | The People v. | Philly D.A. | Independent Lens | PBS
3-5 minute PBS produced educational video series explaining the legal subjects and issues within each episode of Philly DA
Ep1 + Ep 8 “Cash Bail”
“Transcending the directorial workmanship and production values, however, is the simple sight of unfashionable – which is to say good, ideologically informed but practically executed – work being done on behalf of the disfranchised, the powerless, the underserved. It is deeply thrilling to watch. An unfamiliar feeling stirs, and rises higher with each episode. The feeling is hope.” – The Guardian
“Philly D.A. is a beautiful, sprawling story that does justice to both the giant organizations and the many individuals caught inside them. It also reminds us that “doing justice” is so much harder than we may want to believe.” – Vulture
Critic’s Pick: “PHILLY D.A. never sets foot in a courtroom… but it’s as captivating, timely and relevant a legal drama as you’re likely to watch this spring. It’s the legal thriller we need right now.” – NY Times
“Philly DA is one of the most thorough and compelling pieces of media I've ever seen on the criminal legal system. The series threads the needle of storytelling that is engaging, fair, captures the arguments of the other side (without doing both-side-isms) and still takes a clear point of view, exposing the profound injustices of our carceral system. Extraordinary filmmaking all around!” – Rebecca Richman Cohen, Lecturer on Law, Harvard Law School
"For those involved with, or just interested in criminal justice reform, Philly DA is must-see television. Philly DA shows that good intentions and progressive thinking is not enough to bring about the change needed to make the American criminal justice system more just, fair, and truly blind, especially to race, gender, and class. The show teaches that to bring about systemic reform, tireless, hard-working and dedicated reformers within the system are needed to standup to the forces within the system who are fighting to preserve the status quo." – Lucius T. Outlaw III, Associate Professor, Supervising Attorney, Criminal Justice Clinic, Howard University School of Law
"As a former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, "Philly DA" transported me back in time to the gritty, proud places and people who attempt, via and with the help of the chief prosecutor's office, to protect the sanctity and safety of communities. "Philly DA" highlights the unsung heroes of the criminal justice system: lawyers who join prosecutor's offices to serve communities and individuals typically under-served by their governments. "Philly DA" shows how tough a job these special people have, especially when faced with the calcified cynicism that infuses and surrounds the criminal justice system." – L.C. Herbert, Professor of Law, School of Law, Howard University