Stand with Us in Reimagining Delaware’s Probation System

The United States incarcerates its citizens at a rate higher than any other country in the world. Delaware’s incarceration rate, while dropping, is still higher than all of its neighboring states, including Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.

While state leaders have recently enacted law and policy to reduce the prison population, none of these reforms have tackled a major driver of the prison population in Delaware: the probation system. Delaware has the 8th highest rate among states for probation, with 13,519 people on probation as of June 30, 2019, and in 2015 1 out of every 3 people released from prison were re-arrested within three years. 94% of those people didn’t commit a new crime.

Through probation reform, Delaware can:

  • Reduce its 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
  • Free up millions of dollars for reinvestment, benefiting innumerable lives

Please join us in asking Delaware’s leaders to make probation reform a priority in 2021 through changes that will take our broken probation system from surveillance and punishment to support, guidance, and true rehabilitation.

To read the full report on our broken probation system from the Delaware Campaign for Smart Justice and the ACLU of Delaware, check out PeopleNotProbation.com.

Delaware Leaders,

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!