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Politics & Government

Two more criminal justice reform bills pass House of Representatives

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Delaware Public Media
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House lawmakers passed two criminal justice reform bills last week.

 

State Rep. Nnamdi Chukwuocha’s (D-Wilmington) bill prevents children under 12 from being prosecuted except for the most violent crimes, including rape and murder.  His bill also prevents children under 16 from being transferred to the Superior Court.

 

Chukwuocha says the goal is to keep kids from getting used to the criminal justice system at an early age.

 

“Involving children, having children involved very early on in the juvenile justice system can have negative impacts on their lives including crime, continued crime, drug use, even gang involvement — everything we know that will lead them to standing and knocking at the door of our adult correctional facilities, everything that we do not want,” he said.

 

Instead of being prosecuted, youth 12 and under would be referred to the juvenile civil citation program, allowing them to undergo reform without creating a criminal record.

 

State Rep. Danny Short (R-Seaford) was concerned what would happen if kids continue to re-offend. Chukwuocha says this bill wouldn’t prevent referrals to more intensive support services.

 

House lawmakers also approved legislation requiring law enforcement officers to wear body cameras. 

 

HB 195 was among the Law Enforcement Accountability Task Force’s recommendations - and that group’s chair, State Rep. Frank Cooke (D-South Wilmington) was excited to see it adopted.

 

“Cause it takes everybody,” Cooke said. “It’s not just Frank Cooke, it’s not just Rep. Dorsey Walker but it takes everybody in this room to make sure this got done for the state of Delaware and I thank you all.”

 

Gov. Carney and Attorney General Kathy Jennings also worked on the bill, making sure over $4 million is available to set up the program, and facilitate storing camera footage across the state.

 

Both bills passed unanimously and head to the State Senate.