Senator Pinkney Launches Probation Reform Bill on Last Day of Session
DOVER —In an unexpected move, Sen. Marie Pinkney launched a bold probation reform bill today on the last day of the 151st General Assembly’s legislative session.
Senate Bill 345 aims to eliminate barriers many face on their way 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 every person who is serving a Delaware probation sentence, but especially those who struggle to meet unnecessarily strict requirements that have no relation to the crime they were sentenced for.
This bill would modernize Delaware’s probation system by:
- Ending incarceration of probationers for technical violations;
- Enabling the customization of conditions of probation to meet individual needs;
- Requiring the collection and publication of data on probation;
- Investing in community-based reentry programs; and
- Limiting probation terms to 1 year.
The changes that the bill seeks to accomplish are a result of Sen. Pinkney’s conversations with advocates and community members who are working to change Delaware’s probation system.
“Delaware has the eighth highest rate of people on probation in the United States, which has led to a revolving door of people leaving prison only to return back,” said Haneef Salaam, Campaign for Smart Justice manager at the ACLU of Delaware. “The vast majority of those sent back to prison from probation are for minor technical violations, not for committing new crimes. This creates a justice system that sets people up to fail, rather than for successful rehabilitation.”
With SB 345 introduced on the last day of the 151st General Assembly’s legislative session, Sen. Pinkney and advocates plan to use the bill as a primer for a full legislative campaign in 2023.
“This bill is about making sure more people are able to successfully complete their probation sentence so we can end the probation to prison revolving door, and it’s going to take a lot of buy-in to make that happen,” Sen. Pinkney said. “That’s why we’re dropping this right now. A real, tangible bill that people can read, digest, and discuss between legislative sessions provides lawmakers, stakeholders, advocates, and community members an opportunity to work together to craft a bill that we can advance during the next legislative session.”
More information about the issues with Delaware’s probation system can be found in a 2020 report released by ACLU of Delaware (ACLU-DE): Delaware’s Broken Probation System: The Urgent Need to Reform Community Supervision in the First State. The report is a comprehensive analysis of Delaware’s probation system and how it fuels mass incarceration, and it details how probation rules fail to adequately rehabilitate people in the justice system by promoting a culture of punishment that leads far too many people back to prison.