Noteworthy

Friday, October 27th- Visions of Justice

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This year we will explore current pretrial and bail reform efforts in Delaware and nationwide. Visions of Justice 2017 will feature national speakers in the field, breakout information sessions, and a panel debate featuring representatives from all sides of this important issue!

In early March, the Delaware Center for Justice issued a statement to lawmakers, Department of Correction officials, community leaders, and key partners that outlines our recommendations for improving safety in Delaware’s correctional facilities and the wider community in the wake of the incident in Smyrna. Our three primary recommendations are to:

1) reduce Delaware’s prison population
2) enhance the Department of Correction’s grievance process, and
3) enhance programming within Delaware’s correctional facilities.

The statement can be found in its entirety here.

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.

Bill Tracker

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 of Bill
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.

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 has made it out of the House Judiciary Committee.
What happens next?: HB 125 will be heard before the full House. It is currently scheduled to be heard on Tuesday, May 9th.

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.

Bill: TBD
Summary: TBD
Full Text: TBD
Notable News, Research & Resources: Here
Status: The text of this bill has not yet been finalized, but it is expected to increase options for judges setting conditions of release for individuals held pre-trial. Once the bill is filed, more information will be available.
What Happens Next?: TBD

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.

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
Status: SB 54 passed the Senate (17 yes/4 absent) on April 27th.
What Happens Next? SB 54 will move on to the House Judiciary Committee.

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