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Philadelphia’s District Attorney and college officials have come to a joint agreement to let nonviolent defendants to attend  school at Philadelphia Community College rather than lock them up in prison.

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District Attorney Seth Williams says, “Instead of trying them, convicting them and sending them to prison and getting a felony conviction, which is an economic death sentence, we’re giving them an opportunity to get an education at Community College to improve their lives,” .

The D.A. says this is a move to relieve prison overcrowding and unnecessary mass incarceration. The students will get tuition aid from the state and federal governments. The number of students could be in the hundreds.

“We already have programs that deal with the population of either formerly imprisoned individuals, and now we’ll be dealing with individuals before they actually have to go to prison. So we’re accustomed to dealing with this population,” CCP President Donald Generals said.

The District Attorney’s office and the public defender are now screening and interviewing suspects who might be eligible; their goal is to have the new program up and running in the spring.

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