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Pretrial corrections reform begins to pay off in Delaware

Delaware Public Media

A new approach to pretrial corrections is starting to leave a positive mark on Delaware's criminal justice system.

In the past year, the state has sent 45 people who might otherwise have been jailed before trial to Wilmington's Rick VanStory Resource Center. In detention, those offenders wouldn't have able to access many standard inmate services -- and would have gone back to court no better off.


Coupe and the Markell administration feel that needs to change.


"The idea is to start working with these offenders to help them improve in the areas that they need -- so if it's substance abuse disorder, if it's mental health, to get them engaged in treatment and services. If it's housing, to try to work with them to find housing. If it's employment, to try to work with them to find jobs," Coupe says. "So that's what the case managers at Rick VanStory are doing."

He says it's also been a big help as they deal with limited parole staff and increasing numbers of offenders assigned to pretrial supervision -- from fewer than 200 in 2012 to more than 500 this year.
And he says it's saving the state money on the incarceration costs for offenders who could remain in their communities and be trusted to return to court with some guidance.

"They may have ... all these things that they're trying to manage on their own, unsuccessfully, and they're making bad decisions and entering into criminal activity for one reason or another," Coupe says. "So the idea is if you start to treat the underlying issues, you hopefully change the behavior, and get away from the criminal activity."

It's part of Markell's push to help offenders where they live. In this case, Coupe says, it's turning them into more productive citizens who are less likely to re-offend, before they even go back before a judge.

With a year of promising results under their belt, Coupe says they're now hoping to include more inmates and other service centers statewide.


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