Justice Reform

End Capital Punishment in Delaware

In 2016, the Delaware Supreme Court found the state’s death penalty statute unconstitutional.  In 2020, House Bill 299, the Egregious Crimes Accountability Act, was introduced to reinstate capital punishment in Delaware. This bill proposed to “Streamline” the death penalty and resolve the constitutional issues.

Opponents of the death penalty introduced House Bill 305 which proposes an amendment to the Delaware Constitution that would prohibit imposition of the death penalty under any circumstances.  An amendment to the Delaware Constitution requires a greater than majority vote for passage. It requires approval by two-thirds of both Houses in two subsequent General Assemblies.

So prior to the Coronavirus, the 150th General Assembly was facing a battle over this contentious issue which has now been postponed until the next session begins next January.  Opponents of the death penalty need to mount a campaign to prevent Delaware from making a terrible mistake.

The death penalty has failed Delaware in the past, and it will fail Delaware in the future. We must prevent its reinstatement and absolutely halt this new “streamline” bill. Why?

  • We cannot tolerate the risk of executing even one innocent person when life in prison allows for correction if a mistake is made. With the renewed efforts to now “streamline” the death penalty process, the risk of wrongful execution will exponentially increase!
  • National Academy of Sciences reports that already 4% of Death Row Inmates are innocent. Even if that number was 1%, this would showcase the need to do exactly the opposite of what this headline suggests. Delaware has already exonerated an innocent death row inmate in the past, if we streamline this process, that innocent person could have just as easily been murdered by the state.
  • The death penalty costs the state millions of taxpayer dollars to implement, but “streamlining” the process and the risks that this entails is not the answer! Instead, we should use those funds for families who have lost a loved one to murder, programs that deter crime, and additional resources for law enforcement.
  • The death penalty is applied unequally and arbitrarily. This new bill will do nothing to resolve the massive racial disparities found within this system.

COVID-19 Prison Response Action Guide

Goals:

DOC releases inmates who:

  • are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 (over the age of 60 and individuals with immune deficiencies, chronically ill, infirmed);
  • have sentences that would end in the next 6 months;
  • are being held pre-trial for inability to post bail; and
  • are incarcerated on a probation revocation based on a technical violation.
  • DOC coordinates with local service providers to ensure that people released from prison have the resources they need to survive and not re-offend.
  • DOC continues to maintain transparency and releases timely, public information about any COVID-19 response plans in Delaware’s correctional facilities.

Targets:

  • Governor John Carney: (302) 744-4101
  • Commissioner DeMatteis: (302) 857-5246

Messaging:

  • Numerous correctional officers and prison staff have already tested positive for COVID-19. But only 6 tests have been administered to inmates.
  • Governor Carney and the Department of Correction have the power to minimize the suffering and save lives by taking urgent steps to responsibly reduce the prison population.
  • Delaware’s black community will bear the brunt of a COVID-19 outbreak in our prisons, because our prison population is disproportionately composed of black Delawareans. Not taking action to protect our incarcerated population is a failure in racial justice.
  • The state, DOC, and DOJ, have all taken important preliminary measures to brace for when COVID-19 enters our prisons, but those measures aren’t enough to stop the devastating effects of an outbreak in Delaware’s prisons. We must act now.
  • We cannot forget the most vulnerable in our society. A prison sentence should not be a death sentence due to government inaction.
  • It is imperative to ensure that anyone released is connected to social, health, and financial services to ensure that they have a safe place to go and a plan to stay well outside of prison, too.
  • Because people cycle in and out of prison, and prison workers return home each day, members of the medical community in Delaware and across the country agree that keeping people and admitting people unnecessarily into prison endangers all of us—not just those incarcerated.
  • Families of anyone who remains incarcerated through this time deserve to know how the DOC is planning to protect their loved one(s). Making those plans and policies transparent and public, where appropriate, is a key communication need during this public health emergency.