DOC Commish says Board of Parole obsolete

    The leader of the Delaware Department of Correction supports Governor Markell’s decision to eliminate the Board of Parole.

    As part of his 2011 budget plan, Gov. Jack Markell has proposed eliminating the Board of Parole, a move that would save the state more than a half-million dollars a year.

    That’s just fine with the head of the Department of Correction.

    “My position as the Commissioner of Correction is that the usefulness of the Board of Parole is no longer there,” said Carl Danberg.

    The General Assembly abolished parole in Delaware in 1989 with the passage of the Truth in Sentencing Act. The Board of Parole still handles cases for those criminals sentenced before 1990 but the number of cases has diminished considerably.

    In 1992 the Board of Parole held 748 hearings and granted 272 paroles.  In 2007 there were only 46 hearings and seven paroles. In the same time period the budget for the board nearly doubled, from $268,800 per year to $528,000.

    “The bottom line here is the Parole Board is going away. Their workload continues to diminish, their costs continue to stay steady or even increase.  It doesn’t make any sense to continue on this path.”

    Danberg presented his department’s budget to the Joint Finance Committee on Wednesday. A day later, he wanted to clear up, what he says, are a few misconceptions.

    “People are getting upset thinking this is some new concept that the Commissioner of Correction and the governor are proposing eliminating the Board of Parole,” Danberg said. “And my point is no we’re not. The General Assembly made that decision in 1989, we’re just speeding it along.”

    Another concern voiced at the JFC hearing, Danberg says, was the belief that the Parole Board still provides an independent view of current cases.

    “That’s a little bit silly,” he said. “Last year we released 21,000 inmates under our supervision under Truth in Sentencing. The Parole Board has no say, and they have no role in that process.”

    Danberg also said a constitutional matter could keep the board — or, at the very least, some of its members — around a little bit longer. He says the Attorney General’s office has to determine if the board members are state officers. If they are, he says, their pay cannot be reduced while their term continues.

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