To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, our team will be working remotely until further notice. If you have general questions, please call our office at 302-658-7174 ext. 10, leave a message, and we’ll be sure to return your call. If you would like to contact a team member directly, visit the ‘Our Staff & Board’ page located under the ‘Who We Are’ tab to obtain direct contact information. If you are in need of resources, dial 2-1-1 for assistance.

Upcoming Events

DCJ at 100: Convening a Movement for Our Second Century
Please join us on Tuesday, June 30th from 3:30-5 pm to learn more about DCJ’s history, our current work, and our vision for the second century. Registration is required. RSVP here.

Freedom for Sale: The Impact of Bail, Fines, and Fees
Please join us for a free digital educational forum on the impact of bail, fines, and fees! Hear from local and national panelists who are dedicated to reforming our bail system, eliminating the impact of fines and fees, and supporting individuals who are in need of bail. Registration is required. RSVP here.

Current Legislative Priorities

Bill: HB 196
Summary: Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia have established a process for compensating individuals who have been wrongly convicted. This Act creates such a process for Delaware. Full Text of Bill
Notable News & Research: “After 39 Years in Prison, Delaware Man Stands by His Innocence” , “Innocence Project: Compensating the Wrongly Convicted”

Status: HB 196 was voted out of the Judiciary Committee on 6/19/19.
What happens next?: Legislation has been voted out of Committee; now placed on the Ready List

Bill: SB 39
Summary: This Act prohibits a court or the Department of Transportation from suspending a driver’s license for nonpayment of a fine, fee, cost, assessment, or restitution and from charging a penalty, assessment, or fee to a defendant for the cancellation of a warrant issued due to the defendant’s nonpayment of a fine, fee, cost, assessment, or restitution. Further, this Act permits a court, before imposing a fine, fee, cost, or assessment, to consider a defendant’s ability to pay the fine, fee, costs, or assessment, whether an adult or a juvenile, is able to pay the fine, fee, cost, or assessment. This Act also provides the courts with discretion to waive, modify, suspend, costs, assessments, fines, and fees even if otherwise deemed mandatory by the Code. Additionally, this Act requires state, county, and municipal law enforcement agencies and volunteer ambulance companies to calculate and report the total sum they receive from fines, fees, costs, assessments, and restitution and make a public report of these totals. This Act also creates the Criminal Legal System Imposed Debt Study Group to review the impact court imposed financial obligations have on defendants and survivors of crime and make recommendations to promote access, fairness, and transparency in the imposition and collection of court imposed financial obligations. Finally, this Act makes technical corrections to conform existing law to the standards of the Delaware Legislative Drafting Manual. Full Text of Bill

Notable News & Research: “The Steep Costs of Criminal Justice Fees and Fines”p>Status: Senate Judicial Committee 5/31/19.

What happens next?
: Awaiting consideration in Committee.

Bill: HB 299
Summary: This Act revises Delaware’s death penalty statute to ensure its compliance with the United States Constitution, as interpreted by the United State Supreme Court in Hurst v. Florida, and by the Delaware Supreme Court in Rauf v. State. Full Text of Bill
Notable News, Research & Resources: “The State of Capital Punishment”Status: Introduced and Assigned to Judiciary Committee in House 3/12/20.
What Happens Next?: Awaiting Consideration in Committee.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 167 people have been exonerated from death row since 1973. This is only one disturbing statistic out of many when it comes to the death penalty. The Delaware Center for Justice strongly opposes the death penalty, and encourage you to contact your legislators and let them know how you feel about the death penalty.

Restoring TANF Access
Bill: HB 11
Summary: This Act removes the prohibition against receipt of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (“TANF” also referred to by the name Aid for Families with Dependent Children or “AFDC”) funds by persons convicted of a drug felony, so long as that person is otherwise eligible or TANF assistance. Even though federal laws such as PRWORA passed during the War on Drugs frequently prohibited access to public assistance for persons with drug felonies, these laws also gave states flexibility in determining eligibility for food aid and cash assistance for families with children when applicants had a criminal conviction. The majority of states have limited the federal bans in whole or in part. In 2011, Delaware opted out of restrictions on food aid, but it has not opted out of or limited federal restrictions on TANF—the cash assistance program that is the principal form of assistance available to most families in poverty to pay for things like electricity bills or school supplies. Under existing law, individuals convicted of any state or federal drug felony, including possession of marijuana (which can be a felony under federal law), are ineligible for TANF for life. Although the children of a parent convicted of a drug crime can still receive assistance, the family’s overall award is significantly reduced, and in practice this affects the well-being of families and children.Full text can be found here.
Notable News & Research: A Lifetime of Punishment: The Impact of the Felony Drug Ban on Welfare Benefits – The Sentencing Project, 2015
Status: On 5/2/17, HB 11 passed the Senate.
What happens next?: HB 11 has gone to Governor Carney’s desk.
DCJ believes that families should be able to move forward, past a parent or sibling’s previous indiscretions. We fully support the legislative effort to remove this restriction.

Extreme Crimes Prevention Act
Bill: HB 125 (Extreme Crimes Prevention Act)
Summary: This bill would restore a prosecutor’s ability to seek the death penalty in Delaware by requiring a jury to unanimously “and beyond a reasonable doubt” find one or more aggravating circumstances that make the offense eligible for capital punishment.
Full Text here
Notable News, Research & Resources: Delaware Citizens Opposed to the Death Penalty
Delaware Repeal
Status: HB 125 has made it out of the House Judiciary Committee.
What happens next?: Awaiting consideration in Committee.
The Delaware Center for Justice is a staunch advocate against the death penalty. Specifically, we believe it is racially biased and arbitrarily applied. Our current system of justice is imperfect, which puts innocent lives at risk. The death penalty is also extremely costly to the taxpayers. Simply put, the death penalty is the wrong public policy choice for Delaware.

Pretrial Modernization
Bill: HB204
Summary: This bill seeks to protect both public safety and defendants’ rights by seeking to improve pretrial decisions and outcomes while avoiding the unnecessary detention of people who do not pose a risk to public safety. The bill empowers those tasked with supervising individuals with the tools they need to monitor them properly while released- tools currently lacking under our existing system. Full text can be found here.

Notable News, Research & Resources: “Fear mongering should not prevent pretrial reform in Delaware”
UUDAN presentation
Status: Signed on 1/25/18
What Happens Next? Becomes effective upon date of signature of the Governor or upon date specified.
The Delaware Center for Justice supports the implementation of a validated risk assessment tool to assess the risk a defendant poses to the community. Additionally, DCJ supports the elimination of cash bail in favor of a risk-based bail system, which requires an expansion of Delaware’s pretrial supervision capacity.

Expanding Access to Juvenile Expungements
Bill: SB 54
Summary: Senate Bill 54 will help individuals (kids and adults) with juvenile records that have matured and moved beyond any youthful indiscretions. This bill will give them the chance to petition the Court to review the facts of the case, their individual circumstances, as well as any opposing arguments from prosecutors and/or victims, and decide whether or not their record causes a manifest injustice and should be expunged. Senate Bill 54 accomplishes this by:
1) Eliminating the prohibition against even being able to petition Family Court for a discretionary expungement for certain adjudications (Robbery 1st, Burglary 1st, or Home Invasion).
2) Streamlining and expanding the net of people with juvenile records who can petition the court for a discretionary expungement.
Full Text can be found here.
Status: Signed on 6/20/17.
What Happens Next? Becomes effective upon date of signature of the Governor or upon date specified.

DCJ In the News

On a Monday in late March, 85 teens and adults gathered to receive help working through Delaware’s expungement and pardon processes. The Delaware Center for Justice joined together with the Delaware State Housing Authority, Rep. Sean Lynn, APEX, the Office of Defense Services, local attorneys, the Murphy School, and Independent Living Services to put on the clinic. Read more about the importance of expungements and stories of those who attended here.

DCJ’s Kirstin Cornnell weighs in on what soon-to-be proposed bail reform legislation would mean for Delaware. Read the full story here.

For more articles featuring the Delaware Center for Justice, click here.

DCJ Spotlight

Shannon has been an active volunteer with our Read In Read Out (RIRO) program for one year after learning about the program through a professor. Read In Read Out allows selected incarcerated parents to record themselves reading age-appropriate books to their children in order to preserve a bond while improving their communication and parenting skills. According to Shannon, volunteering with RIRO is most rewarding when she witnesses a change in the parent’s mood while being in the program. Helping a parent and child maintain contact is a beautiful experience that requires a very small amount of effort on our part but has many benefits for those involved.  She believes of the many challenges involved with being incarcerated or having a family member who is incarcerated, having meaningful contact between a parent and child should not be an additional burden—but made available to all those who desire it.

Shannon is a third-year graduate student at the University of Delaware pursuing a Ph.D. in Criminology with a focus on addiction and substance use amongst justice-involved individuals. In the future, Shannon would love to teach not only in a traditional university setting but also within prisons to ensure those who are released do not return and in fact, have a healthy and transition back into their communities.

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