Upcoming Events

Current Legislative Priorities

Bill: HB 5
Summary: The stacking of sentences can, and has, in some cases, result in severe prison sentences without permitting the sentencing judge any discretion as to the offender’s individual circumstances or the facts of the case. In order to provide such judicial discretion, this bill reforms concurrent and consecutive sentencing. This bill provides sentencing judges with the discretion to sentence prison time concurrently when appropriate. However, this bill mandates consecutive sentences when there are multiple victims for the most serious crimes. In addition, this bill requires consecutive sentences for assault in a detention facility. Under this bill, based upon the facts and circumstances of a case, prosecutors are able to recommend and judges have the discretion to order consecutive sentences.
Full Text of Bill
Notable News & Research: Long-Term Sentences: Time to Reconsider the Scale of Punishment

Status: Signed 6/25/19.
What happens next?: Becomes effective on 6/25/19

Bill: SB 47 with SA 1
Summary: This Act simplifies Delaware’s drug code with a goal of providing more fairness in its application. This Act removes geographic-based enhancements that disproportionately impact those living in urban areas as opposed to suburban and rural areas. This Act reduces the number of weight tiers from 5 to 3 with adjustments to accompanying sentences while retaining higher felony levels for weights that indicate drug dealing. This Act reflects the reality that the road to recovery from a drug addiction is difficult by removing automatic sentence enhancements based on prior drug offenses, and instead allowing discretion during sentencing to determine when a repeat offender requires substantive additional penalty.
Full Text of Bill

Status: Passed 6/26/19.
What happens next?: Ready for Governor for action.

Bill: SS 1 for SB 37 with SA 1
Summary: The General Assembly has expanded the availability of expungement for juvenile adjudications of delinquency quite dramatically in recent years, in recognition that people can and do change and move beyond mistakes of their past. The intent of this Act is to extend that same recognition to some categories of adult records of arrest and conviction. This bill expands the list of adult arrests and convictions which may be expunged from a person’s criminal record. It
creates eligibility requirements for two tiers for expungement, mandatory and discretionary and establishes the procedures for both.

Full Text of Bill
Notable News, Research & Resources: Expungement of Criminal Convictions: An Empirical Study
Status: Signed 6/30/19
What Happens Next?: Becomes effective on 12/27/19.

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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