Probation, Expungement Reform Top Priorities for Delaware ACLU and allies

DOVER, De- The ACLU of Delaware has released their Smart Justice Agenda for 2022 with a focus on overhauling the probation system, making it easier to expunge criminal records under Delaware’s new Clean Slate Act, and passing the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights Bill. 

Delaware has an expungement process right now but it is hard to navigate,” said Delaware ACLU Director Mike Brickner, adding that the current system can be costly and difficult to navigate; require large amounts of documentation including fingerprints be submitted to the state. He says that that documentation can cost upwards of 150 dollars, with a difficult system of state agencies and departments to navigate. 

He says for the system to be used it must be easier.

“We have begun holding centers where we are working with people to sort their documents and submit them, most recently on Wednesday in Georgetown because we want to see people use this system,” Brickner said.

But the cost isn’t the only barrier.  Delaware Center for Justice Policy Director Kailyn Richards tells us, often times the only place to get fingerprints done is at the police station, a location where those recently out of prison will not feel comfortable going to.

“We are one of the few states that still require fingerprints scans and many people have faced trauma at the hands of police and they aren’t going to go to the police station,” she said.

Brickner and Richards say the challenges faced by those looking to expunge records, only compound when they find themselves on probation.

We have a higher proportion of people who are on probation for long periods of time and a higher number of people who end up back in the justice system compared with other states,” Brickner said. For those on probation, finding a job can actually be more difficult, as they are exempt from record expungement requests.

According to Richards,  “There are people on probation who have charges on their record, that have been dropped in their favor, and they are currently barred from having their records expunged simply because they are on probation even if the two charges have nothing to do with each other.”

Richards believes it is important for those eligible to have their records cleaned before they take place automatically in 2024, as those could be two years with easier access to education, work, loans, and other opportunities.

“Someone will have a charge pop up on their record and they may not have even been found guilty but their employer may see it or a potential employer may see it and will still deny that person that job,” she said.