[DOVER, DE] — The American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware is voicing support for the newly introduced Senate Bill 4. The bill, which was 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 stated by Pinkney and Minor-Brown, “This system is a rigged game, where unlucky people on probation go back to prison, and the ‘winners’ get to cling to survival by the tips of their fingernails. It’s a system designed for failure.”
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.
Haneef Salaam, the Campaign Manager for the ACLU-DE’s Campaign for Smart Justice (CSJ), commends the proposed legislation: “This new bill will be a major step forward in reducing the prison population and allowing people to reenter society with dignity and respect. The technical violations that keep people under correctional supervision do nothing to increase public safety, and they cost the state an unnecessary amount of money to enforce.”
The CSJ is part of the ACLU-DE’s larger justice reform work. This includes a network of other Delaware organizations, as well as Smart Justice Ambassadors — trained advocates working to enact change in their communities.
The goal is to reduce Delaware’s prison population by half and put an end to mass incarceration in the state. As such, probation reform has been and remains a high-level priority for the ACLU-DE.
In addition to the legislative reform presented by this new bill, the organization’s CSJ allies are advocating for an end to Operation Safe Streets (OSS), a partnership between the Wilmington Police Department and the Delaware Department of Corrections that allows police and probation officers to jointly monitor and—as revealed by a recent investigation—harass and abuse Delawareans on probation.
Those interested in learning more about Smart Justice initiatives and signing the current petition to “End Operation Safe Streets (OSS)” should visit: https://action.aclu.org/send-message/end-oss/.
More information about the ACLU-DE’s Campaign for Smart Justice can be found here: https://www.aclu-de.org/en/campaigns/smart-justice