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AG's new guidance looks to shorter sentences, alternatives to prison

Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media
Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings presents a criminal justice reform memo in Wilmington

The state’s new Attorney General has announced her first criminal justice reform initiative.


AG Kathy Jennings unveiled a memo Monday meant to guide state prosecutions and move Delaware toward a more “fair and equal” criminal justice system.

The roughly thirty internal protocols and positions outlined in it emphasize shorter sentencing recommendations and aim to divert more low-level offenders to treatment. They also support expungement and pardons of non-violent charges in certain cases.

“We will utilize discretion to divert more people from the system altogether when it is safe to do so based on their need for treatment,” said Jennings.

“When somebody suffers from a mental illness, we want to make sure that they get treatment, not prison,” said State Prosecutor A.J. Roop.

The memo also guides Deputy Attorneys General to "take into account collateral consequences to undocumented victims or witnesses when deciding how to present a case."

Jennings noted some of the points merely codify practices that prosecutors already employ, while some are a departure from the past.

Safe United Neighborhoods founder Pastor Saundra Ben approves of the changes.“I think it’s going to make a major change, but now the thing is implementing them and, you know, making sure that the young people see the difference,” said Ben.

Jennings took office in January. She called the new policies a “first step. She says she is also working to support legislative solutions .

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.