Tuesday, July 12, 2022

D.A. Krasner Tells City Council A Fairy Tale About Drugs In Portugal

By Ralph Cipriano
for BigTrial.net

At an April 26th budget hearing, District Attorney Larry Krasner told the City Council a fairy tale about Portugal, which Krasner claimed has become a progressive paradise since the country decriminalized drug use in 2000.

In 2019, Krasner, along with some 20 other progressive prosecutors, took a trip to Portugal. The junket was sponsored by Fair and Just Prosecution, a nonprofit that supports progressive prosecutors like Krasner from coast to coast. 

The Philly D.A. has since become an enthusiastic advocate of Portuguese reforms, which he told the City Council if deployed here, would clean up Kensington. But what the D.A. told gullible City Council members about Portugal is not factually true but just a fantasy that exists only in Krasner's head.

Besides distorting the truth, the D.A.'s speech was also hypocritical. Why? Because the diversionary programs that Krasner claimed worked so well in Portugal are similar to the diversionary programs that Krasner's policies have worked to kill off here in Philadelphia. 

Krasner's speech also paves over the inconvenient truth that back in 2018, Krasner was summoned to  the mayor's conference room and asked to assist a task force that Mayor Kenney had formed with the police and several other city agencies to treat the drug crisis in Kensington.

And Krasner's response was to basically tell the mayor to go f---k himself. The D.A. stormed out of the room that day, but not before he disrespected everybody, and told all the city officials assembled there that he wouldn't lift a finger to aid the task force in Kensington.  

Krasner On His Soap Box

At the April 26th City Council budget hearing, Krasner got up on his soap box and started lecturing council members about the revolution that he and his fellow progressive prosecutors had witnessed overseas in Portugal.

In Portugal, Krasner told Council Member Cindy Bass, "the police differentiate between users and dealers." 

Dealers are prosecuted, Krasner said, but "users are not arrested, they're given essentially a ticket to go to what is called a dissuasion committee," which Krasner said is, "a place where they have experts on drugs or services" available to treat addicts and recreational users.

According to Krasner, the dissuasion committee is a place where there's "no lawyers, no judges," just people willing to "evaluate you and offer you services." 

"Treatment is voluntary," Krasner told Bass, as well as free to "the people who are ready to take advantage of it." 

When Council member Alan Domb asked the D.A. what could be done about Kensington, the city's open air drug market where more than 800 drug addicts, prostitutes and/or homeless people, are living on the streets, Krasner once again waxed poetic about Portugal.

"The most successful experiment in drug rehabilitation and in recovery of a neighborhood like Kensington has happened over the last 20 years in Lisbon, Portugal, where they went from 5,000 people who are addicted to heroin living on the street to 1,000," Krasner lectured Domb. 

"That is an 80% reduction, and they did it without locking up any of the users," Krasner continued. "The users all went a different route where they were offered treatment. It was a system invented by a doctor and the results speak for themselves."

Sounds so enlightened, doesn't it? But once again, what Krasner was peddling to the City Council was pure BS. 

In Portugal, the facts are that they:

--  [a] arrest drug users; 

--- [b] stipulate that treatment for drug users is mandatory, not voluntary;

--  and [c] if a drug user in Portugal is caught carrying large amounts of drugs, they face a jail sentence.

Krasner Shows It Pays To Disrespect The City Council

This is the second consecutive Big Trial story that has documented the many lies that Krasner told city Council members during a single two-hour budget hearing on April 26th. 

Here's a link to that first story. 

As he did for the first story, and as he has for the past three years, Krasner did not respond to a request for comment.

When he went before the City Council on April 26th, Krasner openly disrespected David Oh, an Asian-American council member who dared to question Krasner about the city being lawless. 

Rather than answer the question, Krasner gave a speech going back half a century where the D.A. admonished Oh that the word lawless was a racist dog whistle invented by Richard Nixon and his fellow Republicans.  

After he got through blowing that dog whistle, Krasner continued to disrespect the council by either lecturing them, or telling them lies and fairy tales about crime in Philadelphia, as well as crime in Portugal. 

And when the budget hearing was over, the council members unanimously approved a $5.8 billion budget that gave Krasner more money than he was asking for. 

Krasner had originally asked the council to provide his office with at a budget of at least $43,305,949 for the 2023 fiscal year, which would have amounted to an increase of $616,367 over the D.A.'s budget from the previous fiscal year.

But what the City Council decided was to unanimously approve by a 17-0 vote a $5.8 billion city budget that gave Krasner $44,344,210. That's an increase of $1,038,261 over the last year's budget, and $421,894 more than the D.A. had originally asked for.

So if you're Larry Krasner, it pays to treat the elected officials on City Council literally like idiots, feed them BS, and openly disrespect them. 

In response, Joe Grace, a spokesperson for City Council President Darrell Clarke, said that the extra money in the D.A.'s budget was "related to an 3.25% increase in salaries for all full-time exempt employees."

"Every city department received an increase based on their number of exempt employees," Grace said. "This increase was not in response to any request made during the budget process by the D.A."

Grace declined to discuss Krasner's remarks about Portugal. But he did make an important announcement.

"We held a press conference," Grace wrote in an email, "and Council President Clarke and four other Council leaders/members called on the D.A.’s Office to more strongly enforce the Pennsylvania law against illegal possession of a firearm."

That should make a big difference.

Council members Domb and Bass did not respond to requests for comment.

The Real Story About Portugal 

In in an Aug. 12, 2021 article for substack, entitled, "Why Everything We Thought About Drugs Was Wrong; The road to hell was paved with victimology," Michael Shellenberger, who worked with Congresswoman Maxine Waters to promote needle exchanges and decriminalizing drug use, wrote:

While it’s true that both Netherlands and Portugal reduced criminal penalties, both nations still ban drug dealing, arrest drug users, and sentence dealers and users to prison or rehabilitation. 

“If somebody in Portugal started injecting heroin in public,” I asked the head of drug policy in that country, “what would happen to them?” He said, without hesitation, “They would be arrested.”

In an analysis of 20 years of Portuguese drug policy published by Springer Nature, an international research publisher, four authors wrote that the main goal of the reforms in Portugal "is encouraging adherence to treatment, or the decision to abstain from drug use."

Moreover, while referral to health structures is optional, physically presenting oneself before the Commissions is mandatory for those who are caught using drugs. This circumstance is somehow contradictory to the mainstream perspective, which frames drug use in the health sphere, where consent is pivotal.

Not only is appearing before the dissuasion commissions mandatory, but in 2008, Portugal's Supreme Court of Justice "reestablished the crime of drug use when the quantity detected exceeds the average individual use for a period of ten days," the authors write, "behaviour punishable by imprisonment for one year or a fine up to 120 days."

Since the crime of drug use has been reestablished in Portugal, the authors write, annual arrests for drug use have gone from zero to more than 900. 

In a 2018 Vancouver Sun series on Portuguese drug reforms, columnist Daphne Bramham reported that the 10-day supply for personal use in Portugal amounted to 25 grams of marijuana, five grams of 
cannabis resin, two grams of cocaine, or one gram each of ecstasy or heroin.

If a drug user was caught carrying more than those amounts, Bramham wrote, the user could be charged as a trafficker, and if convicted, could face a jail term from one year to 14 years.

Krasner was aware of the reestablishment of the crime of drug use in Portugal. Why? Because on May 15, 2019, he told WHYY in an interview that he was "wary of using the 10-day supply as a one-size-fits-all approach to distinguishing between possession and intent to distribute," the PBS station reported.

“The fact is, someone can be walking around with a small amount of drugs, but if they’ve got $4,000 in their back pocket and they have an expensive scale in their other pocket and a log book in their other pocket that appears to show multiple sales, that’s not a user,” Krasner told WHYY.

Instead, according to WHYY, "Krasner suggested that drug quantities or weights should be used as guidelines and applied on a case-by-case basis."

Krasner was also wrong about no lawyers serving on those dissuasion commissions. 

In her article, "Gateways from crime to health: the Portuguese drug commissions," Arianna Silvestri, who won a traveling fellowship award to visit Portugal from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, writes that members of the commissioners are appointed by the Ministries of Justice and Health, and one has to "be a legal expert, the other two usually are a health professional and a social worker."

Krasner Advocates Diversionary Programs In Portugal But Kills Them Here In Philadelphia

In his sermon on Portugal, Krasner neglected to mention his prominent role in scuttling diversionary programs in Philadelphia that actually offered treatment to users. 

We're talking about programs such as the Accelerated Misdemeanor Program [AMP] for nonviolent offenders, the Accelerated Rehabilitative Program [ARP] for defendants with no prior record, and Project Dawn, a treatment program that aims to get women repeatedly arrested for prostitution off the street.

As soon as he took over as D.A., Krasner announced that he would no longer prosecute people for drug possession, prostitution, or retail theft under $500. Without an arrest as a hammer to convince addicts or prostitutes to go into treatment, according to the D.A.'s own Data Dashboard, participation in diversionary programs such as AMP, ARP or Project Dawn has plummeted.

In 2014 under former former D.A. Seth Williams, 14% of all defendants arrested for criminal offenses wound up in diversionary programs, where their original arrests were expunged if they completed those programs.

By 2021, under progressive Larry Krasner, the number of criminal defendants sent to diversionary programs fell all the way down to 2%.

Keep in mind that the prosecutors in the D.A.'s office under Krasner handle just half the criminal caseload formerly handled by Seth Williams' prosecutors.

In 2014, under Seth Williams, the D.A.'s office charged a total of 43,228 cases. But by 2021 under D.A. Krasner, the total of all cases charged by the D.A.'s office had fallen all the way down to 22,867 cases, a decrease of 47%.

So in terms of the actual number of defendants placed in diversionary programs, that number fell from some 6,275 placed in diversionary programs in 2014 under D.A. Seth Williams all the way down to just 426 in 2021 under D.A. Krasner.

At the City Council budget hearing, Council member Domb asked Krasner what he would propose doing in Kensington. 

That gave Krasner the opportunity to remind Domb that "I'm fairly fluent in Spanish and I've been in and out of Kensington since 1987." After he got through patting himself on the back,  the D.A. agreed with Domb that "right now" the drug problem was "worse than it's ever been."

And then, Krasner plugged AMP, a program that he's done a lot to kill. 

"I recommend that what we do is we vigorously pursue the kind of approach that kind of approach that was used in Portugal," Krasner told Domb. 

"It does overlap with somewhat with AMP, the diversionary process and the availability of voluntary treatment," Krasner said, but, "I suggest we do that."

Krasner's History Of Stiffing Kensington

When it comes to Kensington, Krasner has a history of ignoring what's going on the city's open air drug market. 

During a Oct. 17, 2018 meeting in the mayor's conference room, Mayor Kenney had gathered some 20 top police officials, including the police commissioner, to meet with a half-dozen top officials from the District Attorney's office, led by the D.A. himself.

The mayor had convened the meeting to discuss how the D.A.'s office might better cooperate with the cops and a two-year-old city-wide task force that was dealing with the opioid crisis in Kensington. The concerns were that crime was on the rise, including human trafficking, and that addicts were dying in record numbers.

But Krasner wanted no part of any anti-drug task force. In response to pleas from the mayor and top police officials, Krasner gave them a lecture. 

The federal government, he said, was to blame for bringing drugs into the country. The war on drugs was a colossal failure. And the bottom line was that Krasner, the top law enforcement official in the city, wasn't going to lift a finger to help the task force fight any opioid crisis in Kensington. 

The D.A. subsequently ended the 90-minute meeting by telling the mayor and the assembled police officials, hey we're done here.

"I was stunned," one official at the meeting told bigtrial in 2020. "He [Krasner] basically disrespected the mayor and every other person in the room."

In preparation for that meeting, a high-ranking member of the Philadelphia Police Department had prepared an eight-page memo that took issue with the D.A.'s decision to identify certain crimes such as drug use and prostitution as  "victimless crimes."

"This philosophy is not practical," the memo stated. Krasner's "do not enforce policy" on crimes such as drug use, prostitution and retail theft was "having a dramatic and detrimental effect on several neighborhoods throughout the city."

"The devastation this lack of enforcement is having on the lives of the citizens who live in these troubled areas and the lost lives and values of those who commit crimes to feed their addiction, continues to plague and cause deterioration of once viable communities," the memo states.

According to the report, the police department did not agree with Krasner that prostitution was a victimless crime.

"The inhumanity and stripping away of these victims' dignity demands our sincere and most strenuous attention," the memo stated. "What is lost . . . is our ability to place these unfortunate victims in programs to help them deal with and navigate through their issues or addiction, sexual or physical abuse as well as mental health issues."

In other words, the Police Department was advocating the very same diversionary programs that the D.A.'s office worked to scrap. 

The police memo also took issue with the D.A.'s policy that "no one is to be charged with mere possession of marijuana regardless of the weight possessed."

While not arresting people for possession of small amounts of marijuana may make sense, "It is naive and dare I say irresponsible to assume that those in possession of large amounts of marijuana packaged for individual sales or bulk pounds of marijuana are possessed by individuals simply for personal use."

By not prosecuting drug use, prostitution and retail theft in Kensington, the memo states, "The District Attorney’s Office is directly contributing to the City of Philadelphia’s opioid crisis via overdoses and deaths as well as the spike in gun related violent crime in some sections of the city." 

These were prophetic words that D.A. Krasner has ignored for the past five years. 

Instead, the reality is that the D.A. chose to let all the drug users, prostitutes and thieves go on an unchecked crime spree in Kensington.

And his way of covering up all of that was to lull City Council members to sleep, by telling them a pleasant little bedtime story about Portugal. 


  1. How does one know Krasner is lying? His lips are moving.

  2. For the record, Shellenberger is a very credible source.


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