Research, Policy and Action

Our public education, research, and advocacy initiatives involve engaging the public and policymakers in reasoned discussions of criminal justice issues to improve the quality of justice in Delaware. Stand Up for what’s Right and Just (SURJ) merged with DCJ in February 2012 and serves as one of DCJ’s advocacy programs. SURJ accomplishes its mission to pursue criminal justice reform by raising public awareness about pertinent criminal justice issues, educating legislators and policymakers, lobbying for relevant legislative reform, collaborating with other community-based organizations, and disseminating research and position papers.

Please read a summary of which criminal justice reform legislation passed this session and our focus for the 150th General Assembly (2020) here.

DCJ supports policies and practices that are fair, equitable and developmentally appropriate for youth involved in or at risk of becoming involved in the justice system.

DCJ continues to advocate for the reduction of Delaware’s pretrial detention population, as well as for improved pretrial practices statewide. Approximately 24% of Delaware’s prison population is comprised of individuals awaiting trial. Forty-five percent of these detentioners have neither a violent felony nor a capias/failure to appear, illustrating the opportunity for Delaware to reexamine its use of pretrial detention as a common judicial response.

On September 29th, the Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) named the City and County of Denver, Colorado; Yakima County, Washington; and the State of Delaware as the recipients of the Justice Department’s first Smart Pretrial Demonstration Initiative* grants aimed at creating more fair and effective local pretrial justice practices. DCJ was selected to locally coordinate this two year grant. The Smart Pretrial Demonstration Initiative aligns with DCJ’s multiple year focus on pretrial reform in Delaware through its SURJ Program. The new Initiative will test the cost savings and public safety enhancements that can be achieved by improving pretrial policies and practices. Specifically, the program will evaluate the impact of moving to a pretrial system that relies on risk assessment to inform pretrial release decision-making and demonstrates how risk management strategies can improve pretrial outcomes.

*This project is supported by Grant No. 2014-DB-BX-0006 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The Bureau of Justice Assistance is a component of the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Office for Victims of Crime, and the SMART Office. Points of view or opinions on this website are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

DCJ supports policies and practices that safely reduce our reliance on incarceration. Areas of advocacy include: eliminating the use of the death penalty, eliminating the use of mandatory minimums, and creating alternatives to incarceration.

The Delaware Center for Justice supports comprehensive policy reform that provides true second chances for individuals who have paid their debt to society.

Arrests and criminal convictions bring with them a host of consequences beyond just the sentence imposed by the court. Individuals convicted of a crime are subject to a variety of different regulatory sanctions and restrictions, and these collateral consequences follow men and women well after they have paid their debts to society.

Created by the American Bar Association, the National Inventory of Collateral Consequences of Conviction (NICCC) indicates that Delaware has over 700 rules and regulations which play a major role in an individual’s life, post-conviction. Often times the restrictions are totally unrelated to the original crime committed. These consequences can range from a limited ability to participate in the political process or difficulty gaining employment. Collateral consequences affect jobs and licenses, housing, public benefits, voting rights, judicial rights, parental rights, the right to bear arms, immigration status, and even volunteer opportunities. DCJ supports policies that help individuals who have served their sentences to fully reintegrate into their communities, rather than ones that impose further punitive restrictions.

The purpose of the criminal justice system is to rehabilitate offenders and protect the public safety. DCJ believes that collateral consequences should be limited and imposed only when the offense is recent and directly related to the collateral consequence.

To learn more about specific reform activities pertaining to collateral consequences, please refer to DCJ’s Advocacy Agenda and subscribe to our email list for pertinent action alerts and updates.