We recognize that powerful forces beyond an individual’s control drive involvement with the legal system—living in poverty, being the child of an incarcerated parent, attending an underfunded school, languishing in the school-to-prison pipeline, residing in an over-policed neighborhood, or simply being Black or Brown in America. At DCJ, we listen to these stories and amplify those voices.
Advancing Delaware’s Voices
Read In, Read Out
Eddie* was already part of DCJ’s Read In, Read Out program, reading children’s books into a digital recorder for his own kids, nieces, and nephews, when he got some extraordinary news. His family members in the Midwest ran into someone from Eddie’s past and discovered that he had a son he didn’t know about. His ex-girlfriend was more than willing to help him connect to their son but being incarcerated made that especially difficult. The answer, it turned out, was dinosaurs. Their son loved dinosaurs, so Eddie picked a book on dinosaurs to share, along with a special recorded message to introduce himself.
Navigating re-entry is tough enough under the best of circumstances. In the age of COVID-19, it is virtually impossible to manage alone. John* was homeless and out of work when he was released from prison in March. DCJ connected him with a place to live, food stamps and Medicaid, even a lead on a job—all in this time of unprecedented crisis.
“Of all the people I’ve encountered in the justice system, you’re the first person that has made me feel like you truly care,” John said. “I feel like things are finally starting to fall into place for me even though everything is chaotic in the world.”
Bails, Fines, and Fees
Samantha* was shocked when a pre-employment background check revealed a suspended license and an arrest warrant for an unpaid speeding ticket. She went right to the courthouse to set up a monthly payment plan, only to learn that the debt had almost doubled because of processing and fees. Despite every effort to stay current, she missed a payment, and a routine traffic stop a year later resulted in a trip to jail and an impounded car. She also lost her job and her apartment, and nearly lost her children— all over traffic fines and fees. Samantha is just one of many who must make the heartbreaking choice between feeding her family and paying her court debt. She’s yet another casualty of an oppressive bail, fines, and fees structure that criminalizes poverty for so many Delawareans.
DCJ has been fighting to reform that structure for years, and we aren’t giving up until the battle is won—for Samantha and so many others like her.
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.