During the 2016 General Assembly session set to open on January 12th, ACLU-DE will be working on more than two dozen bills. One simple idea will tie together much of our focus in Dover this winter: instead of overcrowding our prisons, Delaware should shift resources to educational and social services and restore a system of punishment that allows for and supports genuine rehabilitation.
We support SB163 to reform Delaware’s draconian three strikes law and HB62, which would extend pre-trial diversionary drug programs to juvenile court, allowing children who succeed in getting treatment and staying out of trouble to avoid a criminal judgment. We also continue to fight for the repeal of the death penalty in Delaware (SB40).
A new effort of ours is a campaign to reform the thicket of laws restricting the rights of people who have committed crimes after they have served their sentences. Delaware has hundreds of so-called “collateral consequences” of a criminal conviction—restrictions that apply automatically regardless of whether the additional punishment fits the crime.
Among the worst of these are laws that forbid employment in dozens of fields, from barbers to plumbers to landscape architects. These laws also close down many other ladders of opportunity for people trying to put their lives back together, including access to educational resources and housing and food benefits for them and their families.
The net effect of collateral consequence laws is to render people permanent second-class citizens and increase the likelihood that they re-offend. Our goal is to eliminate the most egregious of these laws and also provide for an easier expungement process so that those entitled to expungement can leave past mistakes behind and build a productive future for themselves.
We also continue to work to restore voting rights to people convicted of crimes who have served their punishment, regardless of whether the individual can afford to pay outstanding fees associated with their sentence (SB111). The right to vote does not depend on one’s ability to pay one’s debts.