Delaware Coalition for Smart Justice lobbies for prison reform

DOVER, Del.  – On Wednesday, the Delaware Coalition for Smart Justice got together in Dover to encourage lawmakers to prioritize criminal justice reform this legislative session.

Kathleen MacRae, the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware said, “We’re here to talk to Republican legislators as well as Democratic legislators, this movement forward must be a bipartisan effort.”

Some of the things the Delaware Coalition for Smart Justice wants lawmakers to address this legislative session include expungement, concurrent vs. consecutive sentencing, racial profiling, and rehabilitation.

MacRae said, “We feel strongly that too many people go to prison in this state and stay there too long.”

In attendance on Wednesday was a man named Ronnell Page, who was arrested and charged with 21 felonies in a case of mistaken identity.

Page said, “The gentleman they were looking for was an African American male, about 5’10, 185 lbs. At the time I was 6’4, and 280 lbs and I was taken to prison. My bail was 105,000 dollars cash didn’t have that of course, so I had to sit in prison for a while.”

It took Ronnell 9 months to prove his innocence and seven years to clean up the mess but to this day, he still has those 21 felony charges on his background.

Page said, “I kind of got like an ‘I’m sorry, our bad’ and a goodbye and that was it.”

Unfortunately, Ronnell is not alone in his struggles with Delaware’s Criminal Justice System.

We’re told others are struggling as well, some of them, simply because they weren’t able to pay a fine.

Ashley Biden, the Executive Director of the Delaware Center of Justice said, “There are currently 44,889 warrants issued in the state of Delaware each year for warrants for not paying fines.”

Overall, activists in attendance on Wednesday hope their actions will help inspire change and more importantly, some legislation.

Biden said, “It’s the smart and just thing to do, and so we’re hopeful.”

These groups are encouraging community members to meet with their legislators to express their opinions on these proposals.

47ABC reached out to the Delaware Department of Corrections on Wednesday for comment, they said, “The DOC supports common sense legislation that reduces the prison population and provides services to the individuals who need them.”

It’s important to note that the State of Delaware has already taken steps to improve their criminal justice system.

Just recently, Governor John Carney signed Executive Order #27 to improve reentry procedures in the state.

Categories: Delaware, Local News