By Amaris Elliott-Engel
Of the Legal Staff
As Philadelphia’s new bench warrant court for court scofflaws enters its seventh day today, criminal justice officials say that the new court has already driven up the Philadelphia Prison System’s population to its highest level since the spring of 2010.
Charles "Chip" Junod, who directs a unit managing the city's prison population, said that the prison population has gone above 8,400 for four days in a row after the bench warrant court started Monday, April 16. The prison population has not gone to that level since spring 2010, Junod said.
Junod made the report at a stakeholder group, the Criminal Justice Advisory Board, which attempts to develop consensus on the city’s criminal justice policy.
The bench warrant court was started at the behest of the state Supreme Court to hold contempt proceedings and bench warrant hearings for defendants who have failed to appear for prior court dates.
Philadelphia Municipal Judge Joseph C. Waters Jr. is presiding.
More than 30 percent of defendants in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court and Municipal Court fail to appear at least once during the lifetime of their cases, according to a court's administrative order.