Democratic Philadelphia mayoral candidates Nelson Diaz and Lynne Abraham found themselves at odds Wednesday during a forum on workforce development policies.
During the morning forum, fellow candidate, former Pennsylvania Gas Works spokesman Doug Oliver, defended a proposal that would allow criminal records for certain low-level or non-violent ex-offenders to be expunged for the purpose of aiding their job search. Abraham, though, who served as Philadelphia’s District Attorney for 19 years, spoke out in strong opposition.
“I can’t support Mr. Oliver’s sort of…cleansed record. A criminal record is a criminal record,” Abraham said. “And that’s something that has to be taught to young people early on. You don’t walk away from your record, and this will be an anchor around your neck for future development.”
In a statement to supporters later in the afternoon, however, Diaz slammed Abraham for her comment, calling it a “clear illustration of the failed approach of the past.” Diaz did not shy away from racial issues connected to this proposal, either.
“We arrest far too many of our young people for offenses that should never have landed them in prison in the first place,” the former Court of Common Pleas Judge stated. “These people may not have done anything wrong besides being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong skin color — and that can and does effectively destroy the rest of their lives.
“Rather than telling people to, in effect, deal with it, we should be looking for ways to help kids out of trouble in the first place and give them a second chance if they make a mistake,” Diaz continued. “That’s how I’d want the system to treat one of my relatives if they got in trouble, and it’s how the system should treat every child.”