Delaware Governor Markell to Sign Justice Reinvestment Act (S.B. 226)

NEW YORK, NY―Tomorrow afternoon, Governor Jack A. Markell will sign landmark legislation aimed at improving public safety in Delaware. The Governor is scheduled to sign Senate Bill 226, the Justice Reinvestment Act, at the New Castle County Police Department Headquarters in New Castle, Delaware, tomorrow, Wednesday, August 8, 2012 at 3:30 pm.

Senate Bill 226 is the culmination of nearly a year of work by the Justice Reinvestment Task Force, which Governor Markell convened in 2011 to study the criminal justice system. Assisted by the Vera Institute of Justice’s Center on Sentencing and Corrections, with support from the Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Task Force analyzed data and reviewed corrections and community supervision policies and practices to develop a package of reforms. The bill passed in the Delaware Senate in May and the Delaware House of Representatives in June with strong bipartisan support.

“We are pleased to have made available federal resources through our Justice Reinvestment Initiative to assist state officials in Delaware, who have demonstrated a bipartisan commitment to using data to identify and address challenges facing their state’s criminal justice system,” said Denise O’Donnell, Director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance at the U.S. Department of Justice. “The Bureau of Justice Assistance looks forward to supporting the continued collaboration between Delaware and the Vera Institute of Justice as Delaware implements the reforms outlined in this landmark legislation.”

The bill encompasses a wide ranging set of reforms aimed at reducing recidivism—the rate at which those exiting prison commit new crimes. By concentrating prison and community supervision resources on the most violent and high-risk offenders, S.B. 226 is designed to control incarceration costs while improving public safety outcomes.

Lieutenant Governor Matt Denn, who chaired the Task Force, will join Governor Markell at this event, as will the legislators who participated on the Task Force and who sponsored the bill, including Senator Patricia Blevins (D), Senator Liane Sorenson (R), Representative Melanie Smith (D), and Representative Greg Lavelle (R).

Delaware received assistance through the federal Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI), funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance. The federal JRI is a data-driven approach to improve public safety, reduce corrections and related criminal justice spending, and reinvest savings in strategies that can decrease crime and strengthen neighborhoods. Next, Delaware’s Justice Reinvestment Task Force will focus on implementing the legislation.

S.B. 226 includes the following key provisions:

  • Pretrial Risk Assessment. The Act requires implementation of an objective assessment instrument that gauges defendants’ risk of flight and re-arrest to help magistrates make informed decisions about the terms or conditions of pre-trial release. The Act also requires the Statistical Analysis Center (SAC) to provide magistrates with data on rates of re-arrest and failures to appear for scheduled court dates, creating a track record for release decisions and help improve future decision making.  
  • Risk and Needs Information at Sentencing. The Act provides that the court may request an objective risk and needs assessment by the Department of Correction (DOC) for use in sentencing.  
  • Program Completion and Earned Compliance Credits. To incentivize completion of evidence-based programs that reduce recidivism, offenders may reduce time served by up to 60 days per year if they complete programs successfully. Offenders under community supervision may earn credit for successful compliance with conditions of probation.  
  • Case Planning. The Act requires DOC to use a risk assessment instrument for case planning and will use evidence-based programs to reduce offender risk.  
  • Assessment of Community-Based Services. The Act directs the DOC to evaluate the availability of community-based programs that reduce risk of re-offense.  
  • Recidivism Study. The SAC is required to produce annually a recidivism report of one-year, two-year, and three-year rates of re-arrest, reconviction, and recommitment.