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Criminal justice reform is a big issue in Delaware — and, looking at the data available in the Delaware Open Data portal, it’s clear that the state has a ways to go, equity-wise. One thing that sometimes gets lost in discussions on CJR is the fact that it is an important part of economic development for the community as a whole.
Rectifying legislation that has led to Delaware’s incarceration rates is only one aspect of reform. Creating legislation that helps people find work and gain financial security after reentry is also vital.
Which is why Delaware Sen. Darius Brown’s expungement bill SB 37, just signed into law by Gov. John Carney, is a necessary step in cutting out some of the red tape.
SS1/ SB37, Sen. Darius Brown's #expungement bill and a leading part of our criminal justice reform package, was signed into law by @JohnCarneyDE tonight. It's a landmark moment of the 150th GA that will extend hard-earned second chances to countless Delawareans. #netDE #LegHaulDE pic.twitter.com/ghadEyqnMG
— DE Senate Democrats (@DESenateDems) July 1, 2019
“The General Assembly has expanded the availability of expungement for juvenile adjudications of delinquency quite dramatically in recent years, in recognition that people can and do change and move beyond mistakes of their past,” reads the bill. “The intent of this Act is to extend that same recognition to some categories of adult records of arrest and conviction.”
More on the bill’s specifics:
At present, Delaware allows adults to petition to have a record expunged in only 2 circumstances: (1) for an arrest that did not lead to conviction and (2) after a pardon is granted — but for certain misdemeanor offenses only. Under this Act, a person may have a record expunged through a petition to the State Bureau of Identification (SBI) for (1) charges resolved in favor of the petitioner; (2) a record that includes violations only after the passage of 3 years; and (3) some misdemeanors after 5 years.
In other words, an adult can, in some cases, get their record expunged without going through the process of requesting a pardon. This makes a long two-part process easier and less time-consuming for people who qualify.
A pardon, which will still be a necessary for some people in order to get an expungement, does not erase anything from the record — it just adds a notation that a pardon was issued. The expungement wipes the record clean, so it won’t show up on background checks, something that costs people job opportunities.
According to Andrew Duncan, Kent and Sussex coordinator of state-run reentry program APEX (Advancement through Pardons and Expungements), the Delaware Economic Development Office found in 2012 that, with most employers and housing companies doing background checks, people’s past can be the biggest barrier from getting out of poverty or just moving up economically.
“A lot of what I see is people who struggled with addiction for a period of time and got offenses that go along with that, from shoplifting to drug charges,” said Duncan. “And now they’ve gotten clean, they’ve been clean for years.”
It can even affect getting an education.
“[We see] people going into nursing who can’t do their clinicals because they have a record,” said Duncan.
APEX holds weekly orientation/information sessions at Wilmington Public Library (Wednesdays, 10 to 11 a.m.) and Dover Public Library (Mondays, 9:15 to 10:15 a.m.). Once enrolled, expungement candidates receive one-on-one counseling on how to navigate the process themselves, without the expense of hiring a lawyer.-30-
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