Delaware Awarded Two Federal Grants to Reduce Recidivism at the State Level

Delaware receives $1,509,471 for the Statewide Recidivism Reduction and Innovations in Reentry Grants

Dover, DE— The Delaware Criminal Justice Council (CJC) has been awarded $1.5 million in federal grant funding to build on state level-efforts to improve Delaware’s reentry systems and reduce recidivism. The majority of funds will be administered by the Delaware Department of Correction (DOC) to prepare inmates and probationers for successful reentry. The grants are funded and administered by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP).

“We know that approximately 6,000 individuals are released from Delaware prisons each year and these grants will help us fund initiatives to improve the lives of those men and women and increase their chances for success,” said DOC Commissioner Perry Phelps. “These grants will allow us to amplify our pre-release programs by providing offenders with additional education opportunities and job training, connecting them with community resources and changing attitudes about criminal thinking.”

In December, Governor Carney signed Executive Order 27 to improve reentry procedures for incarcerated individuals in Delaware. The Order created the Delaware Correctional Reentry Commission (DCRC) to focus on reentry reform, policies and procedures, with the goal of helping former inmates more successfully reenter their communities. “We have an obligation to make sure that Delaware offenders who have served out their sentences have a real opportunity to reenter their communities successfully, and positively contribute,” said Governor Carney. “The fact is, over 90 percent of Delaware inmates will leave prison. It’s in our best interest, as a state, to make sure that they have access to education, treatment, and job skills training that will help them succeed.”

Programs and reentry improvements funded by the federal grants align with the Commission’s blueprint for reentry reform. DCRC’s reentry blueprint establishes multiple points during an incarcerated person’s journey towards prison discharge for state agencies, nonprofit organizations, and community members to administer evidence-based practices.

“Delaware has been aggressive and forward-thinking in pursuing federal grants to increase our reentry efforts,” said Christian Kervick, Executive Director of the Delaware Criminal Justice Council. “It helps tremendously that our federal partners see the commitment of Governor Carney, DOC Commissioner Phelps and five other state agencies to come together and coordinate the education, job skills, healthcare, social services and housing ex-offenders need to become productive members of our communities.”

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, over 2.1 million people are incarcerated in federal and state prisons, and millions of people cycle through local jails every year. Ninety-five percent of all people incarcerated in state prisons will eventually be released. Developing a comprehensive approach for reducing recidivism is challenging, requiring access to data, service delivery changes, coordination of multiple systems, and strategic planning. To address these challenges, in 2017, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance competitively awarded SRR funds to five states, including Delaware, to develop comprehensive strategic plans for statewide recidivism reduction.

The grants will provide the DOC with resources and technical assistance to implement the previously developed strategic plan/blueprint under the National Criminal Justice Reform Project (NCJRP), an initiative administered in five states by the National Governor’s Association (NGA) and the National Criminal Justice Association (NCJA) and funded by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. Interventions to be funded include:

  • Programs to Support Individuals Leaving Prison:
    • Reentry case management by a nonprofit organization for probationers
    • Job training in construction skills at Del Tech for inmates at the Plummer Center (with subsequent employment at 2Fish Home Construction)
    •  Financial subsidies for probationers needing support with housing and transportation costs
    • Cognitive behavioral therapy for inmates at Morris Community Correctional Facility and for probationers already in the community
    • Equipment for Delaware Correctional Industries, to help inmates acquire job skills prior to release
  • System Improvement Projects:
    • Gap analysis by George Mason University of DOC’s community corrections programming
    • Validation of two assessment tools used by the DOC to assess offender risk and assign probation levels
    • Evaluation of DOC’s contracted sex offender treatment program
    • Creation of curriculum to cross-train all direct-service DOC staff on use of the new Transition Accountability Plan (TAP), which will serve as the electronic case management plan
  • Training for DOC staff on the University of Cincinnati’s Correctional Program Checklist (CPC), which builds capacity for DOC to monitor the quality of its correctional programs.

Many of the new grant-funded interventions will be overseen by the newly-launched DCRC subcommittees, which include prisoner reentry issues such as employment, education, and collaborative case management. The newly-restructured DOC Planning, Research, & Reentry Unit will oversee implementation of the initiatives, working closely with other state agencies and community organizations. “What makes these grants exciting is that we have a statewide framework for reform, and we’re able to fund programs, interventions, and projects that directly support the direction for system reform that we’re all working towards together,” says the Chief of the Unit, Joanna Champney.

Second Chance Act grants support state, local, and tribal governments and nonprofit organizations in their work to reduce recidivism and improve outcomes for people returning to their communities from state and federal prisons, local jails, and juvenile facilities. Since 2009, more than 840 awards have been made to grantees across 49 states, which have served an estimated 164,000 people to date. To learn more about the Second Chance Act and read other information and resources related to reentry, visit


Governor Carney Signs Executive Order to Improve Reentry Procedures, Reduce Recidivism

Executive Order creates commission focused on reentry reform, and new office at DOC to oversee implementation

WILMINGTON, Del. – Governor John Carney on Tuesday signed Executive Order #27, which focuses on improving reentry procedures for incarcerated individuals in Delaware. The Executive Order creates a commission focused on reentry reform, policies, and procedures, with a goal of helping former inmates more successfully reenter their communities. The Order will more effectively coordinate service delivery, strengthen data sharing among agencies, create a comprehensive reentry protocol, improve the availability of academic and vocational programming prior to an inmate’s release, and strive to reduce recidivism in Delaware.

“It’s our responsibility to look out for every Delawarean. We need to make sure offenders who serve out their sentences are able to reenter society ready to positively contribute to their communities, and have the support they need to succeed,” said Governor Carney. “This Executive Order will improve our existing reentry procedures, and in turn, reduce recidivism. That will help strengthen communities across our state.”

Executive Order #27 is the result of Delaware’s participation in the National Criminal Justice Reform Project, an initiative led by the National Governors Association and the National Criminal Justice Association Center for Justice Planning to assist states in implementing evidence-based criminal justice reforms.

“This Executive Order enhances the ability for the Department of Correction to meet its goals of ensuring public safety and providing opportunities for rehabilitation to justice-involved individuals preparing to return to the community,” said Perry Phelps, Commissioner of the Delaware Department of Correction. “I look forward to working with Governor Carney and our sister agencies to reduce barriers and collateral consequences for the men and women exiting the correctional system.”

Approximately 23,000 incarcerated adults are released from the State of Delaware Department of Correction (DOC) facilities annually. Seventy-six percent of those who are released from DOC facilities are rearrested within three years. Sixty-eight percent of those released had a reconviction and sixty-five percent had a recommitment. Delaware’s percentage of probationers is approximately forty-six percent higher than the national average, and its percentage of incarcerated adults is approximately twelve percent higher than the national average. Reentry reforms in Executive Order #27 are intended to directly confront Delaware’s high rate of recidivism.

“The Delaware Criminal Justice Council is excited to work with Governor Carney and the newly-established commission to build on the continuing work of improving reentry services to all justice involved individuals,” said Christian Kervick, Executive Director of the Delaware Criminal Justice Council. “This Executive Order includes best practices and reforms to improve our Criminal Justice System and increase public safety throughout the State.”

The Delaware Correctional Reentry Commission will consist of members of the Governor’s Cabinet, the Chief Judge of the Court of Common Pleas, the Attorney General and others who work closely on this issue, including the Executive Director of the Criminal Justice Council. This Commission will oversee implementation and further develop the State’s comprehensive strategic reentry initiatives, ensuring that federal, state, and local resources are used most efficiently to reduce duplicative reentry services and align with the application of evidence-based approaches.

“Ninety-eight percent of the people who enter Delaware prisons will return to the community. They are our neighbors. We live, shop, and work in the same community,” said Adam Balick, Chair of the newly-created Delaware Correctional Reentry Commission. “It is in all of our interests to give them the tools they need to succeed when they return to our community. We know the factors that lead to recidivism. Homelessness, unemployment, drug addiction, among other things. We can lower recidivism rates in Delaware by helping these men and women reintegrate successfully.”

This Executive Order also restructures the DOC Office of Research and Planning to the Office of Planning, Research and Reentry. This office will oversee the implementation and maintenance of the Commission’s initiatives from prison to community corrections centers to probation and parole to the community.

“The National Criminal Justice Association is extremely pleased to have worked with Governor Carney and his leadership team to advance prisoner reentry reform efforts in the State of Delaware,” said Chris Asplen, Executive Director of the National Criminal Justice Association. “This Executive Order represents over a year and a half of work by many committed, hard-working leaders from a myriad of disciplines and agencies who make up the steering committee and many working groups and community groups who are dedicated to increasing public safety by improving the state’s prisoner reentry process. This EO includes the many priorities identified in Delaware’s Prisoner Reentry Strategic Plan. We are grateful to our partners at the National Governor’s Association, our consultants and to the John and Laura Arnold Foundation for the support that made this work possible.”


Governor Carney, Commissioner Phelps Release Final Report of DOC Special Assistant

Report details measurable progress implementing recommendations of Independent Review

SMYRNA, Del. – Noting a commitment to publicly document implementation of needed prison improvements, Governor John Carney and Department of Correction (DOC) Commissioner Perry Phelps released a report today detailing the measurable progress made implementing the recommendations in the Final Report of the Independent Review of Security Issues at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center (JTVCC).

Over the past year, hundreds of cameras have been installed at JTVCC for the first time since the facility was built in 1971. DOC has strengthened officer safety, communication and training, increased officer recruiting and retention efforts, modernized operations and intelligence gathering and improved services and programs for inmates.

“Since last February, we have committed to publicly documenting the serious challenges at the Department of Correction, and to implementing reforms in a way that will hold us accountable to the public every step of the way,” said Governor Carney. “We have made significant progress in implementing recommendations of the Independent Review team, and taking steps forward that will make our prison system safer for officers and inmates alike. This is not a short-term mission. We have more work to do. But we are committed to doing what’s right, to making necessary changes, and to holding this process accountable publicly. I want to thank Commissioner Phelps for his leadership throughout this process, and Special Assistant Claire DeMatteis for her careful work in assisting Commissioner Phelps’ team as they implement lasting reforms.”

“Our overarching motivation to strengthen the Department’s operations and security was to honor the ultimate sacrifice and service of Lt. Steven Floyd,” said Commissioner Phelps. “Having a one-year time frame to implement the reforms channeled our motivation into action and positive results.”

Of the 41 recommendations, the DOC has implemented and measurably addressed 40 of them, which is detailed in the report written by DeMatteis, who was assigned as Special Assistant to the DOC for one year to work with Commissioner Phelps on the needed reforms.

“Some of the recommendations could be implemented with a single directive or action; others, such as efforts to improve communication and culture and issues involving inmate classifications, have been implemented and entail ongoing efforts,” DeMatteis said. “This has been a year of continuous improvement for the Department of Correction. Not all problems are solved, but the Department is stronger than it was 18 months ago, one year ago, one month ago.”

The one recommendation that requires additional time to address is the need to reduce mandatory overtime. While enhanced recruiting efforts could take another 18 to 24 months to yield substantial results in lower officer vacancies, DOC leaders are actively seeking short-term solutions, particularly at JTVCC, to reduce the high number of overtime shifts required to operate the facility safely. These solutions are expected to be carried out beginning this fall.

Progress documented in the implementation report includes:

  • After years of budget constraints when funding for officer trainings was reduced, DOC partnered with Wilmington University to conduct a 6-hour training course for all correctional officers in the areas of risk management, de-escalation skills, communication skills and cultural competency.  More than 1200 officers completed the mandatory training from January-July 2018 from experienced, skilled law enforcement officers who are Wilmington University professors.  Wilmington University law enforcement professionals also conducted an 8-hour training course for 400 correctional leaders in supervisory management and leadership skills.
  • Officers’ starting salary increased to $40,000 in FY18 and $43,000 in FY19.
  • A new career ladder and revised promotional standards have been implemented.
  • DOC is offering an incentive signing bonus of $3,000 for new officers who graduate from the Academy, and who stay with the Department for at least 2 years.
  • DOC also is offering a referral bonus of $1,000 to existing officers who refer a recruit who graduates from the Academy who stay with the Department for at least 2 years.
  • Programs and services offered to inmates at the JTVCC have improved over the past year. There are new culinary, horticulture and automotive technician programs available to inmates to give them critical job-skills.
  • Several non-profit groups have resumed operating programs at JTVCC, including: Victims Voices Heard, Prison Arts Program, Alternatives to Violence Program, Gamblers Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics, Echoes of Joy Choir; and the Kings Garden Project.
  • The Inmate Advisory Council, which was initiated by Warden Dana Metzger in the fall of 2017, holds formal monthly meetings with the Warden and his senior staff, medical providers, counselors and treatment staff.  The goal is to foster discussion and problem-solving between inmates and corrections officials.

As DeMatteis stated in the Implementation Report: “The public should be confident that the Department of Correction is focused every hour of every day on public safety, rehabilitation and the law enforcement training, safety of operations, intelligence-sharing and communication required to prevent another inmate uprising that led to the hostage crisis and tragic death of Lt. Steven Floyd in February 2017. Dedicated to his memory, ultimate sacrifice and service over self, correctional officers are committed to performing an extraordinary public service for the people of Delaware.”

Click here to read the full report.


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Governor Carney, COAD Announce Agreement to Raise Correctional Officer Pay
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State of Delaware Employees Honored for Excellence and Commitment in State Service, Team Excellence, and Heroism

Event held during the celebration of Public Service Recognition Week, May 6-12, 2018.

WILMINGTON, Del. (May 11, 2018) —Governor John Carney and Cabinet members celebrated Public Service Recognition Week by applauding the extraordinary work of Delaware’s public servants. Awards for exemplary efforts in service to the State of Delaware were presented at the Governor’s Awards Ceremony: Recognizing State Employee Individuals, Teams and Heroes, hosted by the Department of Human Resources on Monday.

“Every day thousands of dedicated state employees are on the front lines protecting our communities, teaching our children, caring for our most vulnerable citizens and providing important services to all Delawareans,” said Governor Carney. “It is an honor to recognize those employees that have demonstrated outstanding commitment to their work and exemplify the best of what it means to provide public service.”

Nearly 200 attendees were on hand to celebrate the remarkable achievements of the nominees and recipients of the Delaware Award for Excellence and Commitment in State Service, Governor’s Team Excellence Award, and Delaware Award for Heroism.

Delaware Award for Excellence and Commitment in State Service
The Delaware Award for Excellence and Commitment in State Service, established in 1990, is given to five State of Delaware employees, or groups of employees, who exemplify the highest standards of excellence and commitment in state service. Recipients of the 2018 award are:
• Ozden Basaran, and Mark Barrett, Department of Transportation/Department of Technology and Information
• Erika Bradley, Superior Court
• Kim C. Cloud, Department of Technology and Information
• Kyle Conner, Department of Finance
• Amanda A. McAtee, Office of Management and Budget

Governor’s Team Excellence Award
The Governor’s Team Excellence Award is presented annually to a team of six to 20 state employees and encourages teamwork by recognizing groups of state employees for their efforts to use continuous quality improvement tools to excel in leadership, team dynamics and communication to produce superior customer service and tangible results. The 2018 award recipient is the Dealer Portal Team from the Department of Transportation.

In addition, the following team finalists were recognized:
• The NVF – Yorklyn Project Team, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control
• Southern Health Services 2nd Annual Drive-thru Influenza POD Leadership Planning Team, Department of Health and Social Services
• Small Wireless Facility Team, Department of Transportation
• Trauma Informed Care Committee, Department of Services for Children, Youth, and Their Families

Delaware Award for Heroism
The Delaware Award for Heroism was established in 2013 to recognize state employees for acts of heroism and courage. The 2018 recipients are:
• Christie Bonniwell and Trevor McColley, Department of Transportation
• Stewart Douglass & Matthew Palsgrove, Department of Transportation
• Christie Ray, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control
• Angela Riddle, Department of Health and Social Services
• Karol Ann Shyers and Brian Payton, Department of Correction
• Kristen Thornton, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control
• Gabriel and Jessica Vorous, Department of Correction
• William Walker, Department of Correction
• Jamie Whitehouse, Department of Transportation
• Cpt. Patrick Sheets, Lt. Brian Forte, Lt. Bradford Apa, Lt. Benny Dotson, C/O Jesse Cohen, C/O Michael Dunston, C/O Larry Welch, C/O Brian Dorrell, C/O Jacob Stauber, and K9 Spencer Alexander, Department of Correction

“State employees are incredibly driven and committed to serving the people of Delaware,” said Saundra Ross Johnson, Secretary of the Delaware Department of Human Resources. “It is an honor to have the opportunity to recognize those who have gone above and beyond their usual level of excellence.”

Detailed information about the 2018 award recipients can be found on the State of Delaware’s Employee Recognition Program web page.

Governor Carney, Secretary Johnson and 2018 Honorees

Governor Carney Releases Interim Report of DOC Special Assistant

WILMINGTON, Del.Governor John Carney on Thursday released an interim report of the Special Assistant at the Department of Correction. The six-month report publicly details progress in the Department of Correction’s efforts to implement recommendations made by the Independent Review into the events of February 1 and 2, 2017, at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center.

“We are serious about implementing the recommendations of the Independent Review, and improving safety and security across our correctional system,” said Governor Carney. “We have more work ahead of us. Making lasting change won’t happen in a few short months. But as this report indicates, we are making progress. Thank you to Claire DeMatteis for all of her hard work, to Commissioner Phelps, to all of our correctional officers, and to everyone at the Department of Correction for their work and dedication.”

“The public should be encouraged by the level of activity throughout the Department of Correction to address improvements identified by the Independent Review team,” said Claire DeMatteis, Special Assistant. “The men and women of the Department of Correction are an experienced, dedicated, motivated, and determined group of leaders.”

“Since receiving the Independent Review, we have moved quickly to take action and implement the review team’s recommendations,” said Perry Phelps, Commissioner of the Department of Correction. “Addressing the challenges we face will require our focus and attention over the long-term. But all the people of the Department of Correction are committed to this work. I want to thank Claire for her partnership and every officer and member of the leadership team for their contributions.”

The interim report details progress to strengthen officer safety and training; efforts to boost officer recruitment and retention; initiatives to modernize corrections operations to enhance intelligence gathering and intelligence sharing; work to improve services and programming for inmates; and, efforts to improve the daily interaction and communication between officers and inmates and between officers and their supervisors.

Citing progress, Phelps and DeMatteis noted:

  • Installation of dozens of cameras at JTVCC started last November;
  • Additional trainings for all officers in risk management, de-escalation, communication, leadership and cultural competency skills;
  • Initiatives at JTVCC to improve communication among officers, inmates and supervisors, including a new Inmates’ Advisory Council and Correctional Officers’ Advisory Council;
  • Renewed focus at JTVCC on services for inmates, including educational and job training opportunities, library and religious services and increased commissary offerings.

“The Independent Review team recommendations focus mainly on JTVCC. However, the DOC is implementing reforms across all Level V facilities wherever possible,” said DeMatteis. “And, wherever possible, DOC leaders are working to implement changes that go even further than the IRT report calls for, as the interim report details.”

Last summer, Governor Carney appointed Claire DeMatteis – a former senior counsel to then-U.S. Senator Joe Biden – as Special Assistant to work alongside Correction Commissioner Perry Phelps in implementing the Independent Review team’s recommendations. DeMatteis produced the six-month report released on Thursday, and will release a follow-up, public report at the one-year mark of her appointment. The reports are intended to publicly detail the state’s progress in implementing the recommendations of the Independent Review.




Related news:
Governor Carney Releases Final Report of Department of Correction Independent Review
Governor Carney Announces Appointment of Special Assistant at Department of Correction
Governor Carney, COAD Announce Agreement to Raise Correctional Officer Pay
Governor Carney Announces Plan to Address Recommendations of DOC Independent Review
Governor Carney Releases Initial Report of Department of Correction Independent Review