State, City Leaders Announce Group Violence Intervention (GVI) Project in Wilmington

Social service agencies will partner with law enforcement to prevent gun violence

WILMINGTON, Del. – State of Delaware social service agencies will partner with law enforcement to prevent gun violence in the City of Wilmington under a Group Violence Intervention (GVI) project announced by state and city leaders on Tuesday.

Governor John Carney joined Wilmington Mayor Michael Purzycki, Attorney General Kathy Jennings, Wilmington Police Chief Robert Tracy, and Delaware Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) Secretary Kara Walker to announce their shared commitment to launching the evidence-based GVI strategy in Wilmington.   

Evidence shows that gun violence is concentrated among a small number of people at very high risk for both victimization and violent offending. The GVI strategy is intended to help these high-risk individuals avoid involvement in the criminal justice system, keep them safe, stabilize their lives, and create accountability for violence. DHSS, the Delaware Department of Correction, and the Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth & Their Families are among the agencies that will provide intervention services under the partnership.

“For any city to be successful, it needs to be safe,” said Governor John Carney. “Under the leadership of Mayor Purzycki and Chief Tracy, we’ve seen a significant reduction in gun violence in our city. But – as there are in all cities – there are still communities that are disproportionately impacted by gun violence in their neighborhoods. Those shootings traumatize children and families, and tear apart entire communities. We know that this gun violence is concentrated among a small group of people who are at very high risk for offending – but also at a very high risk for being victims of gun violence. We believe we can make a real difference if we are able to reach those at highest risk, and help them avoid involvement in the criminal justice system, keep them safe, and stabilize their lives. Thank you to Mayor Purzycki, Chief Tracy, Attorney General Jennings, Professor David Kennedy and many others for their partnership on this important work.”

“Wilmington is making significant gains regarding public safety,” said Wilmington Mayor Michael Purzycki. “We are a safer City today because we are policing the City differently, and that difference is largely because of the trust that has been built between the police department and our citizens. Chief Tracy has introduced new and effective layers to our policing methods in Wilmington and today we add another layer that can continue to improve lives and further reduce crime. My thanks to the Governor, to the Health and Social Services Secretary and to our criminal justice leaders for embracing this effort and to David Kennedy, Chief Tracy and former Chief Cummings who are deeply invested in making sure this initiative works for all of us.”

“This is a new day in Wilmington’s efforts to curtail violence in our neighborhoods,” said Attorney General Kathy Jennings. “Through this initiative, we are recognizing the social and economic dynamics that so often drive violent crime, and we are disrupting those dynamics at their source. This program has shown remarkable promise in sharply reducing group violence and I am committed to its missions: protecting public safety, addressing the causes of anger and hopelessness that exist in our most underserved communities, and providing meaningful alternatives to those who would build a better life for themselves.”

The intergovernmental initiative will bring together state-level social service agencies with the Wilmington Police Department, the Attorney General’s Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and community leaders in an effort to further and more significantly reduce homicide and shooting incidents in Wilmington. Intervention will be based on frontline knowledge, and real-time data on violence and individuals who face the highest risk of violence.

The GVI work will be led by Bobby Cummings, the former Wilmington Police Chief who has been appointed Director of Group Violence at the Department of Health and Social Services. The National Network for Safe Communities at John Jay College, led by Professor David Kennedy, will provide technical assistance.

“Over the past several years, the Wilmington Police Department has embraced a range of proven, evidence-based policing strategies, with focused deterrence being key,” said Wilmington Police Chief Robert J. Tracy. “Implementing Group Violence Intervention – the next phase of our layered, comprehensive approach – carries the promise of achieving continued reductions in violent crime, while simultaneously offering support and wraparound services to those who embrace an alternative to engaging in gun violence.”

“We’re extremely excited to be working with Delaware and Wilmington to prevent homicide and gun violence,” said David Kennedy, Director of the National Network for Safe Communities at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “We’ve known and worked with Chief Tracy for years, and the commitment of the Governor’s Office puts Delaware amongst a small but growing number of states making an executive commitment to evidence-based public safety approaches. This work saves lives, keeps people out of the justice system, and builds trust between police and communities. We’re honored to be part of it.”

“As leaders, we all have a responsibility to alter the cycle of poverty, trauma and violence in order to keep individuals and families safe and healthy,” said Dr. Kara Odom Walker, Secretary of the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services. “The newly appointed Director of Group Violence Intervention in the Department of Health and Social Services will have the resources and the staffing support to meet the social services needs of the small number of people in Wilmington who are at a very high risk for both victimization and for violent offending.”

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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 NationalReentryResourceCenter.org.

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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.”

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Governor Carney Signs Rep. J. Johnson Bill to Reduce Aesthetics Licensing Barriers

Measure helps improve job opportunities for those with criminal histories

DOVER, Del. – Governor John Carney signed legislation Thursday that would help improve employment and training opportunities for Delawareans with criminal histories seeking cosmetology and barbering licensure.

Sponsored by Rep. J.J. Johnson, House Bill 97 removes licensing roadblocks so a criminal history will not stand in the way of an individual pursuing and applying for an aesthetics license to practice cosmetology, barbering, electrology or nail technology.

“Delawareans who have served their time deserve a second chance, an opportunity to contribute, and reach their full potential,” said Governor Carney. “This legislation will help those with criminal histories improve their lives, while strengthening our communities. Thank you to Representative Johnson and Senator Henry for their leadership on this issue.”

Championed by Rep. Johnson, the legislation gives the Board of Cosmetology and Barbering discretion to grant waivers for certain felony convictions when assessing licensure applicants if up to three years have elapsed since their sentence. Previously, the waiting period was five years.

“After an individual has paid his or her debt to society, all they want is to be able to begin to rebuild their lives. Stable employment and training opportunities are critical to that rehabilitation,” said Representative Johnson, who chairs the House Corrections Committee. “This legislation removes barriers so that individuals will not be defined by their past and will be able to pursue licensing opportunities to put them on a sustainable path forward.”

Under the bill, the board is also precluded from taking into account an applicant’s criminal conviction if more than 10 years have passed since the date of the sentence and there have been no other convictions during that time.

“We spend a lot of time in Dover making sure that the state government isn’t placing overly burdensome or harmful regulations on our economy or our neighborhoods. Shouldn’t we do the same to help former inmates contribute to both?” said Senate Majority Leader Margaret Rose Henry, D-Wilmington. “Ex-offenders already face a steep climb upon release, and failure often means returning to prison, so I couldn’t be more proud to join my friend Rep. Johnson in opening up an avenue to self-sustainability and success for these Delawareans.”

“Professional licensure is often a gateway to a new life for Delawareans looking to launch new careers, earn more for their families and contribute to their communities,” said David Mangler, director of the Division of Professional Regulation. “We are proud to be a part of Rep. Johnson’s efforts to break down barriers to licensure and broaden opportunities for people across the state.”

For questions about licensing, contact the Division of Professional Regulation at customerservice.dpr@delaware.gov or 302-744-4500. Visit the division’s website www.dpr.delaware.gov for more information.

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Governor Carney Signs Executive Order Reestablishing the Juvenile Justice Advisory Group (JJAG)

Members will submit recommendations to the Governor, Legislature and Criminal Justice Council by March 2018

Abigail Layton (Deputy Attorney General, Family Division Director), Lisa Minutola (Chief of Legal Services, Office of Defense Services), Judge Robert Coonin (Family Court), Secretary Patrice Gilliam-Johnson (Department of Labor), Secretary Josette Manning (Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families), Michael Arrington (Chair, Juvenile Justice Advisory Group), Christian Kervick (Executive Director, Criminal Justice Council), and James Liguori (Chair, Criminal Justice Council) join Governor Carney for a photo after the Governor signed Executive Order #11.

WILMINGTON, Del. Governor John Carney on Wednesday released the following statement after signing Executive Order #11 to reestablish the Juvenile Justice Advisory Group, which will examine ways to prevent youth from entering or re-entering the juvenile and criminal justice systems.

“We want all Delaware kids to become healthy and productive citizens of our state, and that includes preventing kids from going down the wrong path and coordinating services for those leaving the juvenile justice system. The Juvenile Justice Advisory Group will help us create an environment where all Delaware kids have an opportunity to succeed. This Executive Order will recharge and reenergize the group to find solutions that will work.”

The JJAG will advise the Criminal Justice Council on grant applications, assist in the development of a state plan to monitor the juvenile and criminal justice system, and work to ensure that assistance will be equitably available to disadvantaged youth. The group will submit a report with recommendations to the Governor, Legislature and Criminal Justice Council by March 31, 2018.

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Click here to view the text of Executive Order 11.