Justice Reinvestment Initiative: Delaware

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The Delaware Justice Reinvestment Task Force, established by an executive order from Governor Jack Markell on July 25, 2011, is charged with conducting a comprehensive examination of the state’s criminal justice system. The Vera Institute of Justice is helping the task force develop a statewide policy framework to reduce spending on incarceration and reinvest in strategies that reduce recidivism and enhance public safety.

Vera will help the Delaware Justice Reinvestment Task Force develop a statewide policy framework to reduce spending on incarceration and reinvest in strategies that reduce recidivism and improve public safety. Vera and the task force will take the following steps:

  • Analyze data. Vera will collect and analyze data to determine factors that are contributing to the size of the corrections population, which includes both pretrial detainees and sentenced individuals, and related costs. Vera will also assess the capacity and quality of institutional and community-based programs designed to reduce recidivism among people who are involved in the criminal justice system.
  • Develop policy options. Based on these analyses and input from a range of stakeholders—including prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, law enforcement officials, and crime victims—Vera will help the task force develop policy options. This process will be informed by stakeholder input, examples from other states, and Delaware’s unique needs. Vera will also estimate the proposed policies’ impact on the need for prison beds statewide.

    Why work on justice reinvestment in Delaware?
    Delaware’s recent budget crisis has created serious challenges for its criminal justice system. Although the number of people in the state’s prisons has remained relatively constant in recent years, corrections spending has risen sharply over the past decade. In addition, the state’s facilities, many of which are aging and in need of repair, are operating near or over capacity. Consequently, policy makers must choose between expanding prison capacity and investing in alternatives such as pretrial services and community-based supervision and treatment. The Vera Institute of Justice will help the Delaware Justice Reinvestment Task Force navigate this choice by examining their prison and community corrections systems and finding ways to both cut costs and improve public safety.

    This project is funded by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance through its Justice Reinvestment Initiative. For more information about this work in Delaware, contact Juliene James.

Justice Reinvestment in Action: The Delaware Model
04/17/2013
When Delaware Governor Jack Markell convened the Justice Reinvestment Task Force in the summer of 2011, the state was facing a high violent crime rate, crowded prisons, and budget shortfalls. By the time he signed the Justice Reinvestment Act (Senate Bill 226) in August 2012, Delaware had joined a...
02/06/2014
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In his recent State of the State address, Delaware Governor Jack Markell laid out his criminal justice policy priorities for 2014, charting a path forward that would strengthen the Delaware justice system by piloting a pretrial supervision program, advancing judicial discretion, and removing...
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04/17/2013
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In 2010, the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) launched a grant program that goes well beyond the standard infusion of federal dollars to local communities. Based on work that BJA and The Pew Charitable Trusts started funding years earlier, the Justice Reinvestment...
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08/15/2012
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On August 8, Suzi Agha, Christine Leonard, and I attended the signing ceremony for Delaware Senate Bill 226, landmark justice reinvestment legislation aimed at improving public safety and ensuring corrections dollars are spent wisely. We were particularly happy to mark this important occasion in...
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map of delawareUnder Phase II of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI )—a project cosponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and the Public Safety Performance Project of the Pew Center on the States—Vera is providing technical assistance to Arkansas to support implementation of The Public Safety Improvement Act, commonly known as Act 570, which was passed in 2011.

Arkansas embarked on JRI Phase I in 2010, when it established the bipartisan, inter-branch Arkansas Working Group on Sentencing and Corrections to analyze the state’s sentencing and corrections data and identify the factors driving Arkansas’s prison population growth, which had doubled during the past 20 years. The working group found that sentencing and supervision practices had resulted in more non-violent offenders going to prison, offenders were given longer sentences, and there were delays in paroling them to community supervision. The policy recommendations made by the working group addressed these drivers, and they ultimately resulted in Act 570. Among other changes, the legislation requires the Department of Community Correction (DCC) to use evidence-based practices, establishes a performance incentive funding grant program, improves government efficiency and effectiveness through data collection and performance measurement, and modifies sentencing laws.

In July 2011, Vera started providing technical assistance to the Arkansas DCC to develop a cross-agency implementation plan and identify performance measures to track the fiscal and public safety impact of the implemented policies. Collaborating with Vera, the state submitted a seed funding request to BJA and secured resources for capacity-building projects, such as training on evidence-based practices, developing the performance incentive grant program, and initiating a place-based supervision pilot.  Moving forward, Vera will monitor the state’s progress, oversee the use of the seed funding, and provide technical assistance as implementation continues.

map of delawareUnder Phase II of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI)—a project sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA)—Vera is providing technical assistance to Delaware to support implementation of Delaware Senate Bill 226, which was signed into law in 2012.

Delaware began its justice reinvestment efforts in the summer of 2011, when Governor Jack Markell established the Delaware Justice Reinvestment Task Force through executive order. Governor Markell charged the task force with conducting a comprehensive examination of the state’s criminal justice system, focusing on the factors that are contributing to the size of the corrections population, which includes both pretrial detainees and sentenced individuals. Although the number of people in the state’s prisons has remained relatively constant in recent years—with corrections spending even declining somewhat—the state’s facilities, many of which are aging and in need of repair, are operating near or over capacity. Consequently, policy makers faced a choice: expand prison capacity or invest in alternatives such as pretrial services and community-based supervision and treatment.

In Phase I, Vera assisted the task force in analyzing the factors driving the prison population and assessed the capacity and quality of institutional and community-based programs. The task force found that individuals awaiting trial made up a large proportion of the prison population, that supervision practices resulted in a large number of probationers spending time in prison, and that Delaware prisoners serve long sentences with limited opportunity to earn reductions in their sentences even when they have made significant steps toward rehabilitation. Based on these findings, Vera helped the task force develop a statewide policy framework to address these drivers and ensure that scarce justice resources are invested wisely to reduce recidivism and enhance public safety.

Legislators translated these policy recommendations into Delaware Senate Bill 226. Among other changes, the legislation requires implementation of an objective assessment instrument that gauges defendants’ risk of flight and re-arrest to help magistrates make informed decisions about the conditions of pretrial release, makes available objective risk and needs assessment for judges’ use in sentencing, supports improved community supervision practices, and creates incentives for individuals who are incarcerated and under supervision to complete evidence-based programs designed to reduce recidivism.

In October 2012, Vera began working with the Delaware Department of Correction, Justice of the Peace Court, and the Administrative Office of the Courts to develop a cross-agency implementation plan and identify performance measures to track the fiscal and public safety impact of the implemented policies. Collaborating with Vera, the state will submit a seed funding request to BJA to secure resources for capacity-building projects that will kick start the policies enacted in Phase I. Vera will continue to provide technical assistance throughout the implementation process.

For more information about this work in Delaware, contact Juliene James.

As part of Phase II of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI ), funded by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, Vera is providing technical assistance to Georgia to support implementation of H.B. 1176, which was passed in 2012. Georgia embarked on JRI Phase I in 2011 when it established the bipartisan, inter-branch Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform for Georgians (Council) to analyze Georgia’s sentencing and corrections data and identify the factors driving Georgia’s prison population growth—projected to grow 8 percent over five years at a cost of $264 million.1 The council found that drug and property offenders accounted for almost 60 percent of prison admissions,2 and the average length of stay in prison for drug and property crimes had more than tripled between 1990 and 2010.3 The council also found that judges had few feasible sentencing options other than prison, and probation and parole agencies lacked the authority and resources to supervise offenders effectively in the community.

The policy recommendations made by the council addressed these drivers, and they ultimately resulted in H.B. 1176. Among other changes, the legislation requires the Board of Corrections to ensure the use of evidence-based practices, including a risk and needs assessment tool in supervision and treatment programs; requires the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) to establish policies and practices for drug and mental health court divisions; streamlines the transfer of information and inmates from counties to the states; and requires the Department of Corrections (DOC) to report to the legislature on progress over time.

In October 2012, Vera started providing technical assistance to the AOC and DOC to create a presentence risk assessment working group to develop policies and identify jurisdictions for pilot sites; assist the AOC with best practices research on creating certification and peer review processes for their drug and mental health courts; develop a cross-agency implementation plan; and identify performance measures to track the fiscal and public safety impact of the implemented policies. Vera is also collaborating with the council to secure additional funding for capacity building projects that would help facilitate implementation of JRI policies.

For more information about Vera's justice reinvestment work in Georgia, contact
Alison Shames.

 


Analysis conducted by Applied Research Services and the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget, State of Georgia. 

2 Data from the Georgia Department of Corrections. 

3 Analysis conducted by Applied Research Services.

map of delawareUnder Phase II of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI )—a project cosponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and the Public Safety Performance Project of the Pew Center on the States—Vera is providing technical assistance to Kentucky to support implementation of the Public Safety and Offender Accountability Act, commonly known as H.B. 463, which was passed in 2011.

Kentucky embarked on JRI Phase I in 2010, when it established the bipartisan, inter-branch Task Force on the Penal Code and Controlled Substances Act to analyze Kentucky’s sentencing and corrections data and identify the factors driving Kentucky’s prison population growth, which was projected to grow by nearly 1,400 inmates during the next 10 years at a cost of $161 million. The Task Force found that sentencing and supervision practices had resulted in an increase in arrests and court cases while reported crime remained nearly flat; an increase in the number of offenders sentenced to prison as opposed to probation or other alternative sanctions; a rising incarceration rate for technical parole violators; and an increase in admissions of drug offenders. The policy recommendations made by the Task Force addressed these drivers, and they ultimately resulted in H.B. 463. Among other changes, the legislation mandates the use of a validated risk and needs assessment tool throughout the criminal justice system, requires the adoption of evidence-based practices in supervision and treatment programs, and requires the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) and the Department of Corrections (DOC) to report to the legislature on progress over time. 

In July 2011, Vera started providing technical assistance to the AOC and DOC to develop a cross-agency implementation plan and identify performance measures to track the fiscal and public safety impact of the implemented policies. Collaborating with Vera, the state submitted a seed funding request to BJA and secured resources for capacity-building projects, such as training on evidence-based practices, increasing stakeholder education, creating mechanisms for program evaluation, and implementation and revision of risk assessment tools. Moving forward, Vera will monitor the state’s progress, oversee the use of the seed funding, and provide technical assistance as implementation continues.

For more information about Vera's justice reinvestment work in Kentucky contact Peggy McGarry.

project image Vera’s Center on Sentencing and Corrections has provided technical assistance to the Louisiana Sentencing Commission since the summer of 2010, with support from The Pew Charitable Trusts and the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). That support has been under the auspices of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI), a joint effort of Pew and BJA. Following Louisiana’s successful completion of Phase I JRI efforts, Vera is currently assisting Louisiana in its implementation of legislation passed in 2011 and 2012.

Louisiana was a natural candidate for JRI: from 1985 to 2010, Louisiana’s prison population grew by 267 percent, while corrections spending increased by 400 percent. In 2008, Louisiana had the highest incarceration rate in the United States, with one out of 55 adults in the state in jail or prison. The annual cost to incarcerate someone in Louisiana is $21,838. The upward trend in the prison and jail population and the concomitant rise in corrections spending have come at a time of unprecedented fiscal crisis in Louisiana.

Mindful of this, in 2009 Governor Bobby Jindal directed the Louisiana Sentencing Commission to review sentencing and corrections practices, with the aim of reducing prison overcrowding and thus state spending. The commission subsequently requested technical assistance from Vera and The Pew Charitable Trusts. The commission reflects a broad range of perspectives from throughout the criminal justice system, with members including the secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Corrections, legal academics, sheriffs, district attorneys, victim advocates, defense attorneys, members of the judiciary, and legislators.

In Phase I of this project, Vera and JFA Associates—a criminal justice research institute—assisted the commission in conducting an in-depth analysis of the state’s criminal justice data to determine the factors driving the Louisiana’s prison population and determining what evidence-based, approaches could be taken to safely address those. The data analysis revealed three primary drivers: non-violent, non-sex offenses accounted for over 60 percent of admissions; of the admissions to prison for revocations of probation or parole supervision, technical violations accounted for 42 percent; and the grant rate for parole had dropped by more than 56 percent from 2000 to 2009.

Based on these findings, Vera helped the commission develop a number of policy proposals to address these drivers. In 2011 and 2012, the Louisiana Legislature passed and Governor Jindal signed legislation that included: discretionary authority to waive some categories of minimum mandatory sentences; creation of a system of intermediate administrative sanctions for offenders on probation and parole who violate the conditions of their supervision; an increase in the amount “good time” and “earned time” credit that state prisoners can earn; a revision of parole eligibility, decreasing the amount of time some offenders must serve of their sentence in prison; expansion of the Orleans Parish Reentry Court program; a restructuring of the Board of Parole and Board of Probation; and creation of an online registry for providers of home incarceration and electronic monitoring.

Phase II supports the implementation of policies adopted in Phase I to assure effective planning and execution, achievement of projected outcomes, and the identification of costs savings for reinvestment. The commission established the JRI Oversight Committee to oversee implementation of Louisiana’s policies. Vera is providing technical assistance to the committee to develop an implementation plan and identify performance measures to track the impact. With assistance from Vera, the state will seek to secure funding from BJA for capacity-building projects that will enhance these efforts. For more information about this work in Louisiana, contact Sara Sullivan.

Under Phase II of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI )—a project cosponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and the Public Safety Performance Project of the Pew Center on the States—Vera is providing technical assistance to South Carolina to support implementation of the Omnibus Crime Reduction and Sentencing Reform Act of 2010, commonly known as S. 1154, which was passed in 2010.

South Carolina embarked on JRI Phase I in 2008, when it established the bipartisan, inter-branch Sentencing Reform Commission to analyze South Carolina’s sentencing and corrections data and identify the factors driving South Carolina’s correctional population growth, which had nearly tripled during the past 25 years and was projected to grow by more than 3,200 inmates by 2014. The Commission found that sentencing and supervision practices had resulted in increased numbers of offenders on parole and probation sent back to prison for breaking the rules of their release, increased numbers of non-violent offenders in prison, and a low parole release rate. The policy recommendations made by the Commission addressed these drivers, and they ultimately resulted in S. 1154. Among other changes, the legislation improves parole release decision-making, strengthens supervision for offenders on probation and parole, provides ongoing oversight of sentencing and corrections reform, and modifies sentencing laws.

In September 2011, Vera started providing technical assistance to the South Carolina Department of Probation, Parole, and Pardon Services and the Department of Corrections to develop a cross-agency implementation plan and identify performance measures to track the fiscal and public safety impact of the implemented policies.  Collaborating with Vera, South Carolina submitted a seed funding request to BJA and secured resources for capacity-building projects, such as training on evidence-based practices, increasing stakeholder education, completing database analysis, focusing on program evaluation, implementing a risk assessment tool, assisting in calculating cost-savings, and developing a graduated response matrix.  Moving forward, Vera will monitor the state’s progress, oversee the use of the seed funding, and provide technical assistance as implementation continues.

For more information about Vera's justice reinvestment work in South Carolina contact Ruth Delaney.