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Returning Citizens Help Get Out Vote For Philly’s DA Race

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The ACLU of Pennsylvania is making a last minute push to get voters to cast a ballot in the race for Philly DA.

As Cherri Gregg from our sister station KYW Newsradio tells us, they are using canvassers who have experience with the criminal justice system.

Smart Justice is the ACLU of Pennsylvania’s first ever non-partisan campaign to get its 13,000 members to weigh in on the race for Philly DA.

Nicholas Pressley is the campaign manager on the Smart Justice Campaign.

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“The district attorney is the most powerful person in the criminal justice system,” he said. “They decide who goes to jail and who doesn’t, and who better to knock on doors to get out the vote than those who understand the importance of the city’s prosecutor first hand.”

Hasaan Jones is a Canvasser for Smart Justice, “I’m a returning citizen myself so when I go talk to people I just give them my experience

Jones is one of 50 ex-offenders hired by the ACLU through re-entry programs, and they’re telling voters in this low turn out election why their ballot matters so much.

Jones life started out promising as he was a valedictorian in 5th grade, and he wrote a speech that won him a meeting with Rosa Parks.

But after his grandfather died.

“It got hard, and school became less important,” he said.

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He began selling drugs, and ended up in the criminal justice system for 14 years.

“I’ve been told by police in my district at times, every time we see you we gonna beat you up,” said Jones. “My bail was $160, and I couldn’t afford it. I was in jail for three months.”

But he’s turned his life around and his hitting the streets for a different reason.

Jones wants voters to choose a DA that’ll stand up against the system,  and the circumstance that impacted his life. And how the choice for the next DA’s could influence it all.

“If they can see me change and turn it around, maybe they’ll believe they can change too,” he said.

And maybe, just maybe, change the minds of some of the other men and women lost in the system.

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