Over the past few years, Delaware has taken important strides forward on criminal justice reform, but there is still a major driver of incarceration harming thousands of Delawareans every day: our broken probation system.
For individuals returning home after incarceration, the hurdles to successful reentry are substantial. Returning citizens struggle to find housing, transportation, medical care, and employment at a livable wage. On top of this, many face mental health and substance abuse challenges. The probation system and its myriad of reporting requirements, such as meetings, costs for treatment, curfews, and surveillance are insurmountable hurdles for too many.
That’s why Delawareans on probation are cycling through the system at alarming rates. In 2015, 1 out of every 3 people released from prison were re-arrested within three years — even though 94% of those people didn’t commit a new crime.
That’s why we’re calling on you to make these specific, actionable policy changes to Delaware’s probation system a priority in 2021:
1. Shut down Operation Safe Streets and the Governor’s Task Force. This program creates a culture of probation focused on law enforcement, not rehabilitation, and it doesn’t make anyone safer.
2. Eliminate probation sentences for minor convictions by using out-of-court diversion, restorative justice programs, and alternative sentencing for minor crimes.
3. Stop incarcerating people for technical violations. Prison or jail time should be used only as a last resort to protect public safety.
4. Customize probation terms to meet individual needs. Stop assigning the same 13 conditions to each person on probation regardless of individual circumstances.
5. Measure the probation department’s success by its ability to keep people on probation from incarceration.
6. Collect and publish race data so lawmakers and the general public can better understand the drivers of the racial disparities in the system and how to find solutions.
7. Invest more in community-based reentry programs to provide formerly incarcerated people the help they need.
8. Limit probation terms to one year and stop holding people on probation just because they can’t afford court fines and fees or mandatory costly out-of-pocket probation programs.
If Delaware makes all the changes suggested above, we could:
- Reduce our incarcerated population
- Reduce crime and recidivism
- Enable better victim restoration through payment of restitution
- Enhance public safety by focusing resources on those most likely to reoffend
- Aid in effective rehabilitation
- Save at least $37 million by 2025
Please commit to making probation reform the next focus of Delaware’s criminal justice reform efforts in 2021. We’re counting on you to stop the endless incarceration cycle fed by our current probation policies. A real chance for probationers to succeed is a real chance for communities to recover and victims to heal.
Thank you for your support of this important issue!