Transforming The Legal System in Delaware

About DCJ

At the DCJ, we listen, we amplify, and we act to seek
justice for all Delawareans through advocacy and services.

We provide state-of-the-art, evidence-based programming to our clients, seeking justice for each individual as we seek justice for all.

Legislative Tracker

Wrongful Conviction Compensation

Bill: HB 196


Summary:
Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia have established a process for compensating individuals who have been wrongly convicted. This Act creates such a process for Delaware. Full Text of Bill

Notable News & Research:
“After 39 Years in Prison, Delaware Man Stands by His Innocence”
“Innocence Project: Compensating the Wrongly Convicted”

Status:
HB 196 was voted out of the Judiciary Committee on 6/19/19.

What happens next?
Legislation has been voted out of Committee; now placed on the Ready List

Fines and Fees Reform

Bill: SB 39


Summary:
This Act prohibits a court or the Department of Transportation from suspending a driver’s license for nonpayment of a fine, fee, cost, assessment, or restitution and from charging a penalty, assessment, or fee to a defendant for the cancellation of a warrant issued due to the defendant’s nonpayment of a fine, fee, cost, assessment, or restitution. Further, this Act permits a court, before imposing a fine, fee, cost, or assessment, to consider a defendant’s ability to pay the fine, fee, costs, or assessment, whether an adult or a juvenile, is able to pay the fine, fee, cost, or assessment. This Act also provides the courts with discretion to waive, modify, suspend, costs, assessments, fines, and fees even if otherwise deemed mandatory by the Code. Additionally, this Act requires state, county, and municipal law enforcement agencies and volunteer ambulance companies to calculate and report the total sum they receive from fines, fees, costs, assessments, and restitution and make a public report of these totals. This Act also creates the Criminal Legal System Imposed Debt Study Group to review the impact court imposed financial obligations have on defendants and survivors of crime and make recommendations to promote access, fairness, and transparency in the imposition and collection of court imposed financial obligations. Finally, this Act makes technical corrections to conform existing law to the standards of the Delaware Legislative Drafting Manual. Full Text of Bill

Notable News & Research:
“The Steep Costs of Criminal Justice Fees and Fines”

Status:
Senate Judicial Committee 5/31/19.

What happens next?
Awaiting consideration in Committee.

Egregious Crimes Accountability Act

Bill: HB 299


Summary:
This Act revises Delaware’s death penalty statute to ensure its compliance with the United States Constitution, as interpreted by the United State Supreme Court in Hurst v. Florida, and by the Delaware Supreme Court in Rauf v. State. Full Text of Bill

Notable News, Research & Resources:
“The State of Capital Punishment”

Status:
Introduced and Assigned to Judiciary Committee in House 3/12/20.
What Happens Next?
Awaiting Consideration in Committee.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 167 people have been exonerated from death row since 1973. This is only one disturbing statistic out of many when it comes to the death penalty. The Delaware Center for Justice strongly opposes the death penalty, and encourage you to contact your legislators and let them know how you feel about the death penalty.

Past Legislative Success

Restoring TANF Access
Bill: HB 11


Summary:
This Act removes the prohibition against receipt of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (“TANF” also referred to by the name Aid for Families with Dependent Children or “AFDC”) funds by persons convicted of a drug felony, so long as that person is otherwise eligible or TANF assistance. Even though federal laws such as PRWORA passed during the War on Drugs frequently prohibited access to public assistance for persons with drug felonies, these laws also gave states flexibility in determining eligibility for food aid and cash assistance for families with children when applicants had a criminal conviction. The majority of states have limited the federal bans in whole or in part. In 2011, Delaware opted out of restrictions on food aid, but it has not opted out of or limited federal restrictions on TANF—the cash assistance program that is the principal form of assistance available to most families in poverty to pay for things like electricity bills or school supplies. Under existing law, individuals convicted of any state or federal drug felony, including possession of marijuana (which can be a felony under federal law), are ineligible for TANF for life. Although the children of a parent convicted of a drug crime can still receive assistance, the family’s overall award is significantly reduced, and in practice this affects the well-being of families and children. Full text can be found here.

Notable News & Research:
A Lifetime of Punishment: The Impact of the Felony Drug Ban on Welfare Benefits – The Sentencing Project, 2015

Status: On 5/2/17, HB 11 passed the Senate.
What happens next?: HB 11 has gone to Governor Carney’s desk.

DCJ believes that families should be able to move forward, past a parent or sibling’s previous indiscretions. We fully support the legislative effort to remove this restriction.


Extreme Crimes Prevention Act
Bill: HB 125 (Extreme Crimes Prevention Act)


Summary:
This bill would restore a prosecutor’s ability to seek the death penalty in Delaware by requiring a jury to unanimously “and beyond a reasonable doubt” find one or more aggravating circumstances that make the offense eligible for capital punishment.
Full Text can be found here

Notable News, Research & Resources:
Delaware Citizens Opposed to the Death Penalty
Delaware Repeal

Status: HB 125 has made it out of the House Judiciary Committee.

What happens next?
Awaiting consideration in Committee.

The Delaware Center for Justice is a staunch advocate against the death penalty. Specifically, we believe it is racially biased and arbitrarily applied. Our current system of justice is imperfect, which puts innocent lives at risk. The death penalty is also extremely costly to the taxpayers. Simply put, the death penalty is the wrong public policy choice for Delaware.


Pretrial Modernization
Bill: HB204


Summary:
This bill seeks to protect both public safety and defendants’ rights by seeking to improve pretrial decisions and outcomes while avoiding the unnecessary detention of people who do not pose a risk to public safety. The bill empowers those tasked with supervising individuals with the tools they need to monitor them properly while released- tools currently lacking under our existing system. Full text can be found here.

Notable News, Research & Resources:
“Fear mongering should not prevent pretrial reform in Delaware”
UUDAN presentation

Status:
Signed on 1/25/18

What Happens Next?
Becomes effective upon date of signature of the Governor or upon date specified.

The Delaware Center for Justice supports the implementation of a validated risk assessment tool to assess the risk a defendant poses to the community. Additionally, DCJ supports the elimination of cash bail in favor of a risk-based bail system, which requires an expansion of Delaware’s pretrial supervision capacity.


Expanding Access to Juvenile Expungements
Bill: SB 54


Summary:
Senate Bill 54 will help individuals (kids and adults) with juvenile records that have matured and moved beyond any youthful indiscretions. This bill will give them the chance to petition the Court to review the facts of the case, their individual circumstances, as well as any opposing arguments from prosecutors and/or victims, and decide whether or not their record causes a manifest injustice and should be expunged. Senate Bill 54 accomplishes this by:
1) Eliminating the prohibition against even being able to petition Family Court for a discretionary expungement for certain adjudications (Robbery 1st, Burglary 1st, or Home Invasion).
2) Streamlining and expanding the net of people with juvenile records who can petition the court for a discretionary expungement.
Full Text can be found here.

Status: Signed on 6/20/17.

What Happens Next?
Becomes effective upon date of signature of the Governor or upon date specified.

Justice for All Delawareans

In this extraordinary moment, our nation is unified in a loud and sustained call for justice. Not justice postponed, as it has always been for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in America, nor justice for some, but fully and finally justice for all. We are also calling for the dismantling of the mechanisms of white supremacy that have prevented justice on this continent for over four centuries.

In Delaware, we have yet to achieve an unbiased, equitable, and transformative vision of justice. The effects of slavery, Jim Crow, poverty, and discrimination are embedded in our state’s institutions and disproportionately impact those most vulnerable to structural injustice to this day. As recently as 2019, Black Delawareans accounted for 60% of the state’s prison population, while representing less than a quarter of its population overall.

In this environment, justice cannot exist.

There’s reason to hope, however. Since the murder of George Floyd, we’ve seen monuments to white supremacy toppled; we’ve witnessed the Supreme Court uphold the rights of LGBTQ+ people and dreamers; and right here in Delaware we’ve seen the beginning of much-needed policing reform.

Building on this momentum, our new mission is simple but direct: we listen, we amplify, and we act to seek justice for all Delawareans through advocacy and services.

LISTEN.
AMPLIFY.
ACT.

our programs

DCJ is unique among nonprofits in that we operate in both the advocacy and service spaces. Our policy and education work informs—and is informed by—our direct service programs.

We offer a variety of different programs for adults, including services for victims, reintegration, restoration, and more. Additionally, we offer three different programs for youth, supporting both victims and perpetrators of crime. While DCJ works for collective justice, our programs work for individual justice.

our work

Our primary role in Delaware is to offer a safe, compassionate, and non-judgmental environment that encourages and supports the vulnerability of our clients. Additionally, our public education, research, and advocacy initiatives involve engaging the public and policymakers in reasoned discussions of leagl issues to improve the quality of justice in Delaware. Our reformative and legislative work focuses on juvenile justice, pretrial reform, decarceration and sentencing reform, and the collateral consequences of conviction.

Resources

Unfortunately, we cannot accept walk-in clients, but please browse through the wealth of resources on our website. Call us at 302-658-7174 if you would like to be referred to one of our programs.

Donate

Your support will activate a bold vision of justice for Delawareans. While DCJ is thankful for state contracts and grants to sustain our client services, we also rely on donations to support our policy and advocacy work. Your generosity will help to expand our programs and move us closer to achieving justice for all.

Events Calendar

dcj in the news

Get Involved

Please consider getting involved in this critical work. We have full-time, intern, and volunteer positions available and would love to hear from anyone who is passionate about seeing real change for those affected by the legal system in Delaware.