The next Delaware attorney general must commit to reducing the number of people going to prison and eliminating racial disparities that affect who goes to prison and for how long. The attorney general must also recognize that public safety is best served by focusing on solving the problems that lead to crime rather than maximizing sentences after crimes have already occurred.
Expand use of alternatives to prison
The attorney general is the gatekeeper to Delaware’s criminal justice system. The attorney general and the professional prosecutors in the attorney general’s office decide whether someone who is living with mental illness or a drug addiction will get access to treatment and rehabilitation, or whether they will instead be charged with a crime that is likely to result in jail time. The next Delaware attorney general must expand use of treatment and diversion, instructing deputies to refer more cases to diversion and advocating for wider eligibility. By targeting the underlying problems that lead to a crime in the first place, effective diversion programs can make Delaware safer and our justice system fairer.
Send fewer people to prison with shorter sentences
Prosecutors helped lead us into our country’s mass incarceration crisis, and we need them to help lead us out of it. The next Delaware attorney general must abandon the culture of locking up as many people as possible for as long as possible. They must replace it with a culture of fairness and seeking only the sentence necessary to deter crime. As the most influential law enforcement figure in the state, the attorney general must also commit to advocating for legislative changes that will fight mass incarceration.
End money bail
Almost a quarter of people in prison in Delaware are there without having been convicted of any crime. They are detained until their trial because they cannot afford their money bail. Money bail punishes people for not having financial resources and causes people to lose jobs, housing, cars, medical care and even child custody. The next Delaware attorney general must use their power and influence to communicate the harms of the money bail system and the need for reform, and should instruct their deputies not to ask for money bail for misdemeanor and theft offenses.
End racial bias and disparities in prosecution
Across Delaware, there are too many people of color caught up in the criminal justice system. Our next attorney general must commit to ending racial disparities in prosecutorial decision-making. This will require tracking and publishing statistics about the decisions made by their office, including disparities in charging decisions (including decisions not to prosecute), bail recommendations, diversionary program placements, sentence recommendations and plea bargains.
Let the public judge your performance
Too little information about prosecutors is made public. This lack of transparency prevents the Delaware community from knowing what decisions are being made or the outcomes of those decisions. Fully transparent practices and outcomes improve decision-making, allow the public to hold the attorney general accountable, and enable the public to push the attorney general in other areas in the future. In addition to publishing statistics about prosecutorial decisions, the attorney general should also pledge to publish policies regarding prosecution guidelines, police-involved incidents, bail recommendations, fines and fees, diversion programs, plea bargains, civil asset forfeiture and immigration considerations.
Listen to community needs
Achieving safety and justice is a community-wide effort. The next Delaware attorney general should evaluate their success based on how satisfied the communities most impacted by crime are, not based on how many convictions they get or how long the sentences are. Listening to the community also means holding police and prosecutors responsible when they engage in misconduct.