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Bail reform bill passes despite some Democratic infighting

Joe Irizarry
Delaware Public Media

The House passed a Democrat-led bail reform measure, but the bill’s biggest critics were also Democrats.

The bill calls for offenders charged with dangerous criminal offenses to get cash bail for felonies like gun offenses, domestic violence, rape, sexual abuse of children, and re-offending while on bond.

But the amended House version changed some language - calling for people facing those same charges to relinquish their firearms instead of forfeit them until their case is resolved.

State Rep. Sean Lynn (D-Dover) calls the legislation flawed.

"This bill will have proven deleterious effects on women, poor people, people of color," said Lynn. "What is not proven, what cannot be shown through data, and what is demonstrably untrue is that this bill will do anything to curb firearm violence in Wilmington or Dover, that this bill will do anything to preclude individuals from committing new criminal activity while out on bail."

But State Rep. Sherry Dorsey Walker (D-Wilmington) counters it will help police.

"Wilmington Police, New Castle County Police, all 48 police departments up and down the state of Delaware are doing what they can, but they need help," said Dorsey Walker This is the opportunity to give them the help that they need."

State Rep. Nnamdi Chukwuochoa (D-Wilmington) says the bill will ease fears in his district and the city.

"This individual is going to get right back out. So now we don't have individuals to step forward to be witnesses, we don't have individuals to step forward to give statements, to provide information that can help us solve crimes. It all goes to the same thing, the same just revolving door of individuals just repeatedly being released back into our community," said Chukwuochoa. "This bill will address that."

State Rep. Eric Morrison (D-Newark/Glasgow) diaagrees, arguing the bill will not make anyone safer, and will create new victims.

"More victims of our horribly dysfunctional and broken criminal justice system, many of them as always people of color and people of a lower socioeconomic status," said Morrison.

The amended legislation passed 32-8 in the House, then cleared the Senate 19-2. It now heads to the Gov. John Carney.

Joe brings over 20 years of experience in news and radio to Delaware Public Media and the All Things Considered host position. He joined DPM in November 2019 as a reporter and fill-in ATC host after six years as a reporter and anchor at commercial radio stations in New Castle and Sussex Counties.
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