Now, HERE’s Something The General Assembly Can Wrap Up In January

Filed in Delaware, Featured by on January 3, 2018

They can end the use of bail as an economic weapon against the poorHB 204 (The great Rep. J. J. Johnson) has passed the House, has been released from Senate committee, and can be put on an agenda when the General Assembly reconvenes next Tuesday. The bill, which has been strongly endorsed by Delaware United, makes significant changes to the pretrial process.  In this case, the somewhat lengthy synopsis is worth parsing:

An analysis of data for pretrial detention and bail shows that Delaware’s bail system is failing in two ways: we unnecessarily detain individuals who lack funds for their release, and on the other end of the spectrum, we release defendants who fail to appear or remain law abiding during their period of pretrial release. The Courts, the Department of Correction, the Office of Defense Services, the Attorney General’s Offices, members of law enforcement and the private defense bar, and the Delaware Center for Justice have worked collaboratively to propose the changes embodied in this bill, and will continue to work on further revisions. Specifically, this Act makes the following changes to the bail/pretrial process: – Use risk to determine conditions: Require courts to consider risk by using empirically-based tools to determine whether a defendant is likely to stay out of trouble and come to court, and use that information to make individualized “assignments” of conditions of release. – Defines purpose of release conditions: Limit conditions of release to things that will reasonably assure the defendant will show up in court, and protect victims, witnesses, and community members. – Create more opportunities for conditions to be added or removed: Make release conditions “living documents” that will automatically be reviewed if a defendant does not initially meet them, if a defendant does meet them and then violates those terms, or if the defendant or their custodian makes a motion to modify those conditions. – Empower pretrial officers: Gives Department of Corrections more tools to investigate and address violations of release conditions so the courts can address violations promptly and impose sanctions if necessary. This bill further requires the court to conduct a review of conditions of pretrial release for a defendant who remains detained after 72 hours from the defendant’s initial presentment because of inability to meet any condition of release (including a financial condition). Such a review must happen within ten days of detention.

Delaware United, via the Action Network, details the harmful impacts of imposing bail conditions on those accused of  nonviolent offenses:

Defendants unable to post bail can lose their jobs—and cannot pay child support—because they cannot report to work. Parents who cannot post bail, especially single parents, risk losing their children to the foster care system.
Defendants stuck in jail cannot participate in their own defense like free defendants.
The cash bail system disproportionately keeps African-Americans in jail, and contributes further to already overcrowded prisons. Even non-violent and first-time offenders often have to pay bail—for example, first-time drug use offenders.
Cash bail does not necessarily keep communities safe or serve its needs.  For example, drug dealers with large amounts of cash on-hand can post bail easily, or order their minions to do so, while a single parent living paycheck to paycheck cannot post a very small bail amount. Non-violent defendants who cannot post bail are held in the same prisons as individuals convicted of very violent offenses.
Contact your state senators and urge them to support this bill.  It would represent an encouraging start to what otherwise promises to be yet another horrible year in Dover.

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  1. bamboozer says:

    Well, looks like common sense has broken out in Dover for a change. Never fear, it never lasts.