Update: June 28
SS 1 for SB 4 was voted out of the Senate Corrections and Public Safety Committee on Wednesday, June 28, and now awaits a full Senate vote at the start of the legislative session in January. Criminal legal reform advocates are optimistic that this bill remains primed for full passage next year.
Senate Bill 4, sponsored by Sen. Marie Pinkney and Rep. Melissa Minor-Brown, aims to eliminate systemic barriers that prevent those recently released from prison from successfully rejoining society. Over 10,000 Delawareans are subject to the extreme obstacles that the state’s current probation system presents. Achieving the basic stability of safe housing and a steady job are often insurmountable challenges for those who have been released from Delware’s prisons.
As proposed, the new probation reform bill would:
- End incarceration for technical violations.
- Enable the customization of probation conditions to individual needs.
- Require the collection and publication of data on probation and people on probation.
- Invest in community-based reentry programs.
- Limit probation terms for most crimes to one year.
- Eliminate probation for minor convictions.
- Senate Bill 4 seeks to eliminate barriers many face to successfully completing probation sentences and ensures that people won’t be sent back to prison for making simple mistakes while on probation. If passed, this bill will benefit everyone serving a Delaware probation sentence, especially those who struggle to meet unnecessarily strict requirements that have no relation to the crime they were sentenced for.
- By modernizing the probation system, Delaware could not only cut its incarcerated population but also: Reduce crime and recidivism, Enable better victim restoration through payment of restitution, enhance public safety by focusing resources on those most likely to re-offend, aid in effective rehabilitation, and free up millions of dollars for reinvestment into reentry, educational, and social services, beneficially changing innumerable lives.
- Probation oversight in Delaware follows a supervisory and punitive model that does not increase public safety.
- Return to incarceration for rules violations can rob people on probation of whatever gains they were able to make in employment and housing, guaranteeing their eventual failure.
- Standard Probation conditions are applied without regard to individual needs and risk level.
- Without a Probation system that intentionally connects clients to resources, re-entering individuals are often unable to meet basic requirements of probation success, such as employment or attending counseling services.
- Delaware Probation policies perpetuate racial and economic injustice. Black Delawareans are 23% of the general population but almost half of people on probation are Black.
- We must collect and analyze data to improve Probation outcomes and end racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Delaware needs more statistics on the criminal legal system generally, but especially to know how many people are being sent back to jail for probation violations and why in order to improve outcomes.