DELAWARE CRIME PREVENTION AND REHABILITATION ACT
The goal of Delaware Citizens' Information and Action Forum's program and cost effective Act is to return our State Department of Corrections and criminal justice system to their original purpose and responsibility "to provide for the treatment, rehabilitation and restoration of offenders as useful, law-abing citizens within the community." Sections 2,3 and 4 of the Act are presented below which explain the need for these sensible comprehensive, systemic changes the Act will effect and the reduction in crime and savings of hundreds of millions in taxpayer funds that implementation of this Act will accomplish.
The Governor's 2009 Re-Entry Plan is nothing more than politically correct and aligned perpetuation of costly status quo. The in prison part of this plan is to provide an individualized treatment/rehabilitation for the approximately 7,000 prisoners (97%) who will be returning to our communities. Also, to provide the same individual program for each new prisoner upon entry to prison. It is commendable that five state departments are sitting down together to try and provide support for both the in prison and community re-entry efforts. However, the proper word is hallucinatory to believe these five separate state departments, without ANY additional funding, can even begin to provide what is claimed. The Re-Entry Consortium now given control of community re-entry efforts is commendable also, but is merely a continuation of fragmented efforts for the essential array of treatrment/rehabilitation/economic support components needed by these returning offenders. The Consortium is composed of grant recipients seeking continued funding for their own grants and programs. It is not sensible public policy to turn a state re-entry system over to private organizations who depend on state and federal grants to fund their programs.This is not to state their efforts aren't worthy but not a one responded positively to our comprenhensive Act. Why? Our Act is similar to a proven program and cost effective Act in California. In our Forum's Act, the proposed community-based Rehabilitation Centers in each county will be certified, administered and supervised by our Delaware Health and Social Services Department. This will provide quality assurance, coordination of private/public resources and accountability by this public department with legal responsibility. Using the proven California Act and experience, our Delaware Act would use these fragmented grant and other available funds to create the first comprehensive Rehabilitation Center in Wilmington. It would soon save millions of dollars on an ongoing basis and provide adequate funding for providing and expanding our Act's programs both in prison and community-based programs explained later on this web site page. With this costly and inhuman plan our Governor has politically crafted, our crime rate will not decrease, released offenders will not receive the rehabilitation and justice for restoration promised in our State Constitution, our costly prison population will continue to increase, those contractors will get to build that 900 prison bed planned expansion at approximately $500,000 PER BED and instead of being ranked 47th among the states in re-entry success, we could move down two states and declare "Thank God for Mississippi!"
A Delaware Crime Prevention and Rehabilitation Coalition is being formed of organizations and individuals involved in trying to help bring about the changes this Act will accomplish. We invite other Delaware organizations and individuals to join this coalition. The Chairperson for this coalition and contact resource person is Mrs. Heather Smith-Chandler whose postal mailing address is 848 Townsend Boulevard, Dover, DE 19901, email address firstname.lastname@example.org and phone number (302) 420-8738. Heather is a very informed, involved and motivated leader for the reform movement this Act and Coalition represents. Those joining our Coalition are asked to first become competently informed about this Act, then inform and enlist family members, friends and organization members to do the same. Then, through collective action, supportive members are asked to contact their State Representative, State Senator and Governor to voice support for this program and cost effective Act. By phoning the toll-free number (1-800-282-8545) of the Legislative Council, you will be mailed free of charge a list of all 62 State Legislators, our Governor and Lt. Governor. The list includes their home and office postal mailing addresses and their phone numbers. By contacting our Coalition's Chairperson, a list providing email addresses of the abovelisted elected state officialks will be emailed to you. These communication resources ensure that all citizens have ample means of communicating to our state level elected decision-makers that they support sensible reform legislation as contained in this Delaware Crime Prevention and Rehabilitation Act and other recommended reforms discussed for other issue areas on this nonprofit, nonpartisan web site (deinformedvoters.org).
Inquiries concerning the information within the Delaware Crime Prevention and Rehabilitation Act, research sources utilized and how with state budget deficits the in-prison and community-based comprehensive rehabilitration programs can be funded, contact Dr. Floyd E. McDowell, SR., 11 Dover Court, Bear, DE 19701, email address email@example.com and phone number (302) 832-2799.
Section 2. Findings and Declarations
The State Legislature of Delaware in early 2009 hereby find and declare the following:
(a) Our State Department of Corrections and criminal justice system processes and is responsible for incarcerating approximately 20,000 offenders annually and releasing into our communities approximately the same number;
(b) We have 7,200 incarcerated in our prisons which are over-crowded by approximately 500 prisoners;
(c) There is a planned prison expansion project on the agenda for 900 beds at a 2007 projected cost of $368 million, or a cost of slightly over $400,000 per bed. In 2000, the construction cost per bed was $200,000. Using that rate of increase in cost per year, the 2009 cost will be $460,000 per bed or a total cost of this construction project in 2009 at well over $400 million. By 2010 the construction cost per bed will approach a half million dollars;
(d) The annual incarceration cost for each prisoner in 2008 was $33,000 with a total incarceration cost per year of $238 million dollars;
(e) The rate of return to prison or recidivism for prisoners is between 67% and 80% within three years after being released. This means additional crimes being committed in our communities and using the lower recidivism rate, an extra annual incarceration cost of approximately $53 million dollars. These figures do not include the cost of arrest, pretrial and trial nor the cost to citizen victims and property;
(f) Approximately 80% of our state's offender population are substance abusers and without treatment 70% become repeat offenders;
(g) Approximately 25% of convicted offenders have a mental health need that requires treatment;
(h) Studies show that between 15 to 27 percent of prisoners expect to go to homeless shelters upon release from prison;
(i) Ninety seven percent of all incarcerated prisoners will eventually be released back into our communities;
(j) One out of every thirteen dollars in our total state budget goes into our costly, ineffective criminal justice system and that amount is ever-increasing for taxpayers;
(k) A startling statistic is that 85% of our youth in correctional facilities will go on to enter the adult criminal system;
(l) A nationwide research study by the national Legal Action Council showed that Delaware is 47th among our 50 states in prisoner re-entry efforts;
(m) The above given costly information, in both human and taxpayer fund terms, provides evidence for the understanding, enactment and implementation of this proposed Delaware Crime Prevention and Rehabilitation Act; and
(n) All adults make many serious mistakes in their lives. This Act is aligned with and aids the wise adage, "A mistake is not a mistake unless one fails to learn from it." The act acknowledges that some serious criminal mistakes require more stringent sentencing requirements.
SECTION 3. PURPOSE AND INTENT
The State Legislature of Delaware hereby declare their purpose and intent in enacting this Act to be as follows:
(a) To return our Delaware Department of Corrections and criminal justice system to their original purpose and responsibility "to provide for the treatment, rehabilitation and restoration of offenders as useful, law-abiding citizens within the community." Loss of freedom, isolation and separation from family and friends is enough punishment for any human being. This sensible and cost-effective original purpose and responsibility of our Department of Corrections will be restored via this Act assuring that every day in prison will be filled with constructive activities of an individualized rehabilitation program that enables each prisoner to improve her/his personal adequacy, social competency and economic efficiency. This Act is designed to reform our current rigid, ineffective approach focussed on a type of security that damages and destroys rehabilitation hope and motivation. Mere survival should not be the goal of our incarcerated offenders destined to return to our communities.
(b) To abolish all mandatory sentencing laws in our state and return all sentencing decision-making to Judges involved in courts that try offenders. Our Delaware Judges are ranked among the most competent in the nation and should be given the respect and authority to bbe the key decision-makers in facilitating the program and cost effective benefits of this Act.
(c) To expand the current Drug Courts within our Superior Court system into more comprehensive programming Rehabilitation Courts, These Rehabilitation Courts will work closely with accessible comprehensive Rehabilitation Centers located in each of our three counties according to established need. The comprehensive array of rehabilitation programs and services, either directly provided or obtained elsewhere by each Rehabilitation Center, will include the following:
. Comprehensive substance abuse treatment programs, a key component of rehabilitation programs within Rehabilitation Centers and juvenile correction facilities, jails and prisons;
. Academic and vocational education programs, from functional literacy to college courses;
. Job counseling, training and placement;
. Family-based connections, counseling and treatment programs as this involvement with family and children is one of the main reasons many offenders are rehabilitated;
.Needed physical and mental health treatment services;
. Mentoring programs; and
. Daily living support for those who need transitional help upon release from prison. This support can be provided for up to a year for those who need housing, food, clothing, and transportation. These community-based support services can be provided for much less than the approximate $3,000 per month cost of incarceration.
These comprehensive Rehabilitation Center programs and services will be utilized by non-violent drug offenders who will be given probation and an individualized court-approved drug treatment and rehabilitation program to complete but Judges, given full sentencing discretion by the Act, can assign other non-violent offenders to this more promising and less costly Rehabilitation Center route. These Rehabilitation Centers will be operated according to standards and certification requirements established by our Delaware Health and Social Services Department. This will ensure staff who render services within each center are properly qualified and licensed according to state requirements and that staff outside the centers who provide services meet the same standards. These Rehabilitation Centers will be administered and operated by the Delaware Health and Social Services Department or this Department will have the responsibility for supervising centers operated under contract with qualified nonprofit organizations.
One tract of offenders served by these Rehabilitation Centers will be those released from jails, prisons or youth correctional programs who need a continued rehabilitation program and/or economic support transitioning back into communities. If a center's program is needed, the court can require that as a condition of probation, the released offender must complete a community-based rehabilitation program. The center rehabilitation plan will be developed in collaboration with staff involved in the offender's rehabilitation plan within the jail, prison or juvenile correctional facility. Use of the community-based Rehabilitation Centers' programs and resources can extend for a year unless unusual circumstances require a longer drug treatment or rehabilitation period.
The other tract of offenders involved in these Rehabilitation Centers' programs and services will be non-violent drug offenders that the Act mandates be placed on probation with the court requirement that to prevent incarceration each offender must successfully complete an individualized drug treatment and/or expanded rehabilitation program to be developed by a Rehabilitation Center, approved by the court and monitored by the probation staff. This Act also allows Judges the discretion to assign some other non-violent offenders to probation and the requirement to complete a court-ordered individualized rehabilitation program developed by a Rehabilitation Center. Non-violent status is defined as an arrest and conviction that does not involve the possession and threat of a gun or other weapon used to render physical violence.The Act will require a close working relationship between the courts, our Department of Corrections, Department of Health and Social Services, Probation Department, Rehabilitation Centers and our state's county and local governments. The state and all county/local governments will be asked to identify and change any laws or policies which restrict the full implementation of this Act. At each county level , coalitions of private and public organizations should be formed to offer understanding and support for the crime prevention and rehabilitation benefits from this Act.
(d) This Act requires that our State Department of Corrections and criminal justice system provide the same array of rehabilitation programs and services in our state's jails, prisons and youth correctional facilities that are provided in the community-based Rehabilitation Centers. This will require a close working relationship between our jails, prisons, juvenile correction facilities, Rehabilitation Courts and Rehabilitation Centers.This expanded, cost-effective reform will restore the original purpose and responsibility of our Department of Corrections and criminal justice system "to provide for the treatment, rehabilitation and restoration of offenders as useful, law-abiding ctizens within the community." This change from a rigid security approach to a research-proven program and cost effective facilitative rehabilitation direction will require thorough orientation and continuous training of staff at all levels within the Department of Corrections, but especially for staff who interact with prisoners on an ongoing basis. The State Legislature will establish an oversight and monitoring coalition to ensure that the requirements of this program and cost effective Act are properly implemented. This coalition should have representatives from the State Legislature, Governor's office, State Departments of Corrections, Health and Social Services, Education, Labor, Housing and from community organizations involved in business, education, health care, housing, drug and crime prevention, religion and minority group activities.
(e) This Delaware Crime Prevention and Rehabilitation Act is aligned with the excellent 2007 federal act entitled "Second Chance Act of 2007: Community Safety Through Recidivism Prevention." Of special note is the realization that this act was both developed and enacted under the leadership of former Delaware Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr. This federal act includes grant funds for many of the rehabilitation components to be provided under our state act for youth and adult correctional facilities and its community-based Rehabilitation Centers.
(f) This Act will establish an office at the University of Delaware to conduct continuous research on the program and cost effective benefits of the Act's implementation. This research will study which rehabilitation components in both our prisons and Rehabilitation Centers had more impact on offender rehabilitation. This is but one example of how research can help all rehabilitation programs improve. Another example of meaningful research will be to work with the State Labor Department, State Chamber of Commerce and other private/public sources projecting future job needs in our state and sharing this information with our Department of Corrections, Department of Health and Social Services and Rehabilitation Centers to both influence and maximize the job counseling, training and placement of offenders served by these agencies. Periodic reports of program and cost effective research and other research findings will be provided our State Legislature, Governor's office, Department of Corrections, Department of Health and Social Services, Rehabilitation Centers, state's news media and the general public.
(g) This Act will require that all individuals and private/public agencies seeking state or state-approved public grant funds related to the treatment, rehabilitation and restoration programs and services covered by the Act for offenders must meet the following requirements under this Act: meet the standards and staff qualifications established for these programs and services by the State Department of Health and Social Services; that these grant approved programs and services can be monitored by the State Department of Correction for prison-based provisions and by the county-based Rehabilitation Centers responsible for community programs and services; and agree in the grant proposals that the Research Office to be established at the University of Delaware can evaluate the program and cost effectiveness of the program and services the grant funds provide with public tax monies.
(h) The best evidence that this Delaware Act will cause program and cost effective changes in our state's criminal justice system is the documented success of the similar but more limited California Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act. This California Act mandated, as does the Delaware Act, that all non-violent drug offenders not be incarcerated in jail or prison but be treated in Drug Treatment Centers established throughout the state. These offenders were viewed as health and rehabilitation clients, not prisoners to be incarcerated. These California Drug Treatment Centers included rehabilitation components other than drug treatment but not as complete an array of rehabilitation programs and services as will be provided by implementation of this Delaware Crime Prevention and Rehabilitation Act. The California Act created a Research Office at the University of California at Los Angeles to conduct ongoing statewide research to determine the program and cost effective results from the Act. The following are some of their research findings:
. Over 700 community-based treatment centers licensed, 140,000 receiving treatment and 60,000 having completed their treatment programs. This was 10 times the number previously served in treatment programs;
. A 71 percent drop in drug use among those who completed the treatment program;
. Approximately twice as many were employed after completing treatment than were prior to treatment;
. A 32 percent reduction in number of prisoners serving time in jails and prisons for drug offenses;
. For every dollar invested in the program, taxpayers saved two dollars;
. Diverted 140,000 Californians from incarceration, placing them in treatment instead. Average treatment cost per person was $3,300 while a year in prison costs taxpayers $34,150. Treatment cost in our Delaware Rehabilitation Centers will be slightly higher as there are more rehabilitation services but the annual cost will still be a fraction of the annual cost of incarceration in our state: and
. The California Act caused the closing of a womens' prison and rendered unnecessary the construction of a new mens' prison, causing taxpayer savings of $500 million dollars.
SECTION 4. REMOVAL OF OFFENDERS' RECORDS AND FINES
(1) As ordered and practiced by the similar California Act, this Delaware Act will require that non-violent drug and other non-violent offenders who successfully complete their court-ordered community-based drug treatment and other rehabilitation requirements, and have substantially complied with the conditions of probation, be allowed to petition the court for dismissal of charges. When approved, the conviction on which probation was based shall be set aside and the court shall dismiss the indictment or information against the defendant. In addition, the arrest on which the conviction was based shall be deemed to have never occurred. Except as provided in subsection (4)(5) below, the defendant thereafter shall be released from all penalties and disabilities resulting from the offense of which he or she has been convicted.
(2) All incarcerated offenders who serve their prison terms, successfully meet all probation requirements which may include an in-prison and community transition rehabilitation program, and completes at least three years of successful community re-entry as a useful, law-abiding citizen, may petition the court for dismissal of charges. When approved, the conviction on which the prison sentence and probation were based shall be set aside and the court shall dsismiss the indictment or information against the defendant. All records against the defendant shall be removed. Except as provided in (4)(5) below, these defendants thereafter shall be released from all penalties and disabilities resulting from the offense of which he or she has been convicted.
(3) This Act will prohibit the court from levying fines which follow released prisoners into the community and create an additional unrealistic burden to successful community re-entry as economic survival is the main challenge they face. For former released prisoners who have met the requirements of subsection (2), previous fines levied will be eliminated. This is yet another sensible contribution to crime prevention and less costly rehabilitation of offenders.
(4) Except as provided below in subsection (5), after an indictment or information is dismissed pursuant to subsections (1)(2), the defendant may indicate in response to any question concerning her or his prior criminal record that he or she was never arrested or convicted of the offense. Except as provided below, a record pertaining to an arrest or conviction under this section shall not, without the defendant's consent, be used in any way that could result in the denial of any employment, benefit, license or certificate.
(5) Regardless of her or his successful completion of court requirements and community re-entry as described in subsections (1)(2) above, the arrest and conviction on which probation or incarceration were based may be recorded and disclosed in response to any peace officer application request or any law enforcement inquiry. Expunged records will not apply to convicted sexual predators. Dismissal of an indictment or information under this section does not relieve a defendant of the obligation to disclose the arrest and conviction in response to any direct question contained in any questionnaire or application for public office, for a position as peace officer or licensure by any state or local agency.