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Delaware Docket Newsletter
Fall 2011


The Delaware Courts, criminal justice agencies, and others were recognized for their leadership in efforts to implement racial and justice fairness initiatives during a conference sponsored by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and the American Bar Association (ABA) on October 21 " 22, 2011 in Washington, D.C. In September 2010, Delaware was selected as one of four states to receive a two-year Racial Justice Improvement Project (RJIP) grant sponsored by the BJA and the ABA as a part of the ABA's program to support state criminal justice systems in efforts to enact key practices to promote fair, efficient and accountable systems. Representatives of the jurisdictions receiving the ABA grants attended the Conference held to review progress midway through the grant period.

"We congratulate the Delaware RJIP initiative for the outstanding progress it is making in efforts to enhance racial and justice fairness. As a Delaware native, I am especially proud of the progress that has been made in the Delaware criminal justice system."

      Cynthia Jones, RJIP Project Director

The Delaware RJIP initiative is led by Supreme Court Justice Henry duPont Ridgely, with task force members including Chief Judge Alex Smalls of the Court of Common Pleas, Peggy Bell, Executive Director of Delaware Criminal Justice Information System (DELJIS), Public Defender Brendan O'Neill, Colonel Robert Coupe, Delaware State Police Superintendent, Curt Shockley, the Director of Probation and Parole, Attorney General Joseph R. Biden, III, State Prosecutor Richard Andrews, Drewry N. Fennell, Esq., Executive Director of the Criminal Justice Council, community representative Janet Leban, Executive Director of Delaware Center for Justice, State Court Administrator Patricia W. Griffin, Esq., and Task Force Facilitator, Amy A. Quinlan, Esq., Deputy State Court Administrator.

Delaware's RJIP task force's approach is two-pronged. First, steps are being taken to ensure that racial disparity does not play a role in cases in which a criminal defendant is charged with a violation of probation (VOP). Efforts completed include adopting bias-free decision making policy and training requirements for probation officers. Additional training for probation officers in the motivational interview process and changes to DOC's automated data collection system to allow for automated tracking of graduated VOP sanctions are planned for the second year of the grant. Curt Shockley, Director of Probation and Parole, stated: "The RJIP initiative is providing an opportunity for the Division of Probation and Parole to review its internal processes to ensure that racial disparity does not play a role, no matter how small, in its officers' decisions. We are grateful to have the support of the courts, the ABA and the criminal justice community in these efforts."

Second, the task force is working with the Criminal Justice Council on implementation of the CJC's Declaration of Leading Practices to Protect Civil Rights and Promote Racial and Ethnic Fairness in the Criminal Justice System. The Declaration, adopted in April 2010, outlines steps to be taken by courts and criminal justice agencies, in a variety of areas, to ensure civil rights and racial and ethnic fairness. The Declaration can be viewed at http://cjc.delaware.gov.

Other actions taken as a direct result of task force initiatives include efforts by the Delaware State Police, which already has a strong initiative promoting bias-free decision making, to automate additional aspects of the traffic complaint/warning process. Colonel Robert Coupe, Delaware State Police Superintendent, expressed his appreciation of the RJIP process and stated "I believe that the law enforcement community generally, and the State Police specifically, is benefiting from the work of the RJIP task force's concentration on racial and justice fairness initiatives. When the automation of traffic warnings is completed, we will have the structure in place, as we do with automated traffic tickets, to readily review decisions to ensure they are bias-free."

"The American Bar Association supports Delaware's efforts to ensure that racial disparity does not play a role in the state's criminal justice system.  By implementing reforms that address fundamental fairness in the courts, in law enforcement and criminal justice agencies, the state ensures fair, efficient and accountable systems.  Probation and parole reform, for example, can minimize the reliance on technical violations and remove signs of disparate racial impact while protecting public safety.  These reforms will help ensure a fair criminal justice system and save money that can be used to help shore up the judicial system in other areas."  
      American Bar Association President William T. (Bill) Robinson III