Local officials weigh in on Del. criminal justice reform bills

DELAWARE – Delaware delegates and senators feel as though they tackled some major issues during the 2019 session including the continuing reformation of the state’s criminal justice system.

Lawmakers say they will now open doors in the job market for offenders and lessen juvenile sentences.

“The system is long overdue with an overhaul. It definitely needs to be changed, Delaware needs to be fixed,” explains M/Cpl. Eric Chambers of the Seaford Police Dept.

It’s a statement no one is arguing with when it comes to the criminal justice system in the First State.

Correctional Officer Association of Delaware President Geoff Klopp adds, “Reform is needed absolutely. We need to change the way we do things because it’s not working.”

It’s why Democratic lawmakers rolled out 17 bills, seven of which just passed the General Assembly on the last day of session. Seven bills that include the decriminalization of marijuana for minors that’s causing some hesitation.

“I don’t believe it’s the right direction for us to be leading our youth is say hey it’s okay to have marijuana in your pocket.”

Right now, it’s a misdemeanor to have marijuana on your person as a minor, but Senate Bill 45 is changing that to just a civil offense.

Chambers says, “I think it’s good you’re not going to clog the courts up so much, but then you start thinking about the repeat offenders. At what point in time do you make this become a criminal offense because they’re apparently not learning their lesson.”

Although, Senate Bill 43 and House Bill 7, which would modify the impact of someone’s criminal history when it comes to getting an electrician or massage license, is being met with more favorable reviews.

“So something you did 20 years ago is going to stop you from moving forward in your career path right now, if that can be fixed that’s great because we definitely need more people in the workforce,” adds Chambers.

But not everyone is on board with how these bills are designed to better the system as a whole.

Klopp explains, “The main tool that pretty much everyone in the Department of Corrections needs is addiction treatment and until we really put the focus on that, I struggle to see where we’re going to see any meaningful progress.”

Now the governor has been supportive of the criminal justice reform efforts since the beginning. He has already signed two bills into law and is expected to sign more in the coming weeks.

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