Effort to improve Delaware’s criminal justice system

Following up on recommendations from the Justice Reinvestment Task Force, Gov. Jack Markell has signed a bill reforming the state’s strategy for reducing crime and repeat offenders.

Markell launched the task force last summer via Executive Order and now the group’s recommendations are law.  “It means we’re going to be spending our correction dollars more effectively, and we’re also going to be keeping people safer,” he said.  Markell signed Senate Bill 226 on Wednesday at the New Castle County Police Headquarters in New Castle.

The new law makes a number of changes including requiring inmates to complete treatment programs behind bars in order to qualify for good time sentence reductions, not just participate in programs.  “Those who complete programs are much more likely to stay off drugs, stay out of trouble.  It’s just a practical recommendation that we’ll now see become law,” said state Senate Majority Leader Patricia Blevins, D-Elsmere, who sponsored the measure.

Blevins was part of the task force that crafted the recommendations along with representatives from the courts, police, corrections and the justice department.  “I think this is a big step to making Delaware a safer place to live and also a better place for people to get better from whatever problems they might be facing.”

The new law also makes changes to the way suspects are evaluated prior to their trials to determine who might be a risk of flight and re-arrest.  That evaluation will require the creation of data-based tools to better help judges set bail.  To gauge the impact of the new law, the state’s statistical analysis will track the changes and file reports with the General Assembly and Governor’s office starting next year.

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