PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Lori Sitler
Phone: (302) 577-8314
Pager: (302) 247-1132
Date: March 26, 2003
BRADY UNVEILS SENTENCING AND PROBATION REFORM INITIATIVES
(Dover, DE): At a press conference in Legislative Hall earlier this afternoon, Attorney General Jane Brady discussed her sentencing and probation reform initiatives. Brady, joined by the bills' sponsors, Representative Clifford "Biff" Lee, Representative Wayne Smith and Senator James Vaughn, highlighted the need to reforming how probation is used in Delaware. "Since 1987, the year that the Sentencing Accountability Commission adopted a new sentencing system, the number of defendants on probation has increased by 75%. Nearly one-third of inmates in Delaware's prisons are being held on a probation violation ranking Delaware as third in the nation in the number of citizens per capita who are on probation. We need to reform the probation system," said Brady.
The probation reform bill, which will be introduced in the Senate on March 27th by Senator Vaughn and will be co-sponsored in the House by Representative Lee, will set limits on probation of 2 years for any violent felony conviction, 18 months for any drug offense and 1 year for all other crimes. There are exceptions to these limits if a Judge determines that a longer probation sentence is necessary to ensure public safety or to ensure completion of a court ordered drug treatment program.
The bill will also give the Department of Correction authority to re-classify offenders between levels of probation supervision and to administratively sanction offenders for technical violations of probation. Restitution collection will also be enhanced as restitution orders will be enforceable by victims as civil judgments and a new level of unsupervised probation called Level 1- Restitution Only will be created to ensure that payments to victims are completed.
Representative Lee assured Delawareans that, "The Legislature is not going soft on crime. We are reducing the terms of probation, not the standards." Senator Vaughn added, "We can't be building prisons for probation violators. We need to look for other mean of dealing with violation of probation cases."
House Bill 52, previously introduced by Senator Vaughn and Representative Smith, incorporates a balanced package of changes to Delaware's criminal sentencing structure. HB 52 increases the minimum mandatory penalty for convicted violent felons who thereafter illegally possess a firearm. It also gives Judges the discretion to sentence serious sex offenders to probation for life. Under HB 52, Judges will have the authority to suspend some or all of the minimum mandatory 3 year term required for certain drug offenders in cases involving small quantities of drugs possessed by first time offenders. Mandatory jail sentences for certain motor vehicle offenses that do not involve personal injury or driving under the influence will be replaced by mandatory sentences to home confinement using electronic monitoring.
Representative Wayne Smith believes that, "Attorney General Brady has struck an
excellent balance between the need to give Judges flexibility relating to individual drug cases where low level narcotics are involved for first offenders. However, it is critical to public safety that hard and extremely destructive drugs, such as heroin, remain under mandatory sentencing guidelines."