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Delaware announces 3-year plan to help people reenter the community after prison

Sarah Mueller
Delaware Public Media

The state announced a new recidivism reduction “blueprint” Thursday to help those coming out of prison thrive in the community.

Measures of recidivism in Delaware, such as recommitment, reconviction and rearrest, have trended slightly downward in recent years, but remain high. More than 70% of people released from prison in Delaware are rearrested within three years, according to the Delaware Criminal Justice Council. Around one in five return to prison in Delaware during that time frame, a figure that’s lower than averages for 23 states, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts.

“Our recidivism rates—those who leave the prison and come back—are still extraordinarily high, and really unacceptably high,” said Gov. John Carney at an event to announce the blueprint Thursday.

Sophia Schmidt
Delaware Public Media
Gov. John Carney speaks at an event to announce the new recidivism reduction blueprint at a mobile bridge clinic in New Castle

The state’s new three-year plan to reduce recidivism rates will focus on improving access to healthcare, housing and jobs for those reentering the community from prison.

Joanna Champney, director of the state’s Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, notes the blueprint was created by the state’s Correctional Reentry Commission, which sunset last year but continues its work under the Family Services Cabinet Council.

“As the commission was doing their out-briefing, we realized there is still so much more to be done,” she said Thursday. “We did not want to rest on our laurels, even though we were pleased with what had been done. We still needed to move the needle.”

The new blueprint directs its working groups to gather more data about re-entrants’ experiences, increase peer support services for reentrants and expand the shelter beds and rental units available to them. It also calls for strengthening vocational training in prisons and ensuring that behavioral health treatment options in prison facilities meet national best practices.

The three working groups outlined in the blueprint must produce reports on their progress four times a year.

Gov. Carney created the Delaware Correctional Reentry Commission in 2018. He said at Thursday’s announcement it takes a multi-agency approach to achieve the commission’s goal.

“Which is essentially to make sure that offenders—ex-offenders—when they leave prison, don’t come back,” Carney said. “It’s very simple at that level, but very complicated in terms of how you measure your success, and how you’re successful.”