Commissioner Phelps Announces Selection to Lead Re-Entry Programs, Reduce Recidivism

Jim Elder, new Bureau Chief of Community Corrections, oversees re-entry programs at the Wilmington HOPE Commission

DOVER, Del. – Department of Correction Commissioner Perry Phelps on Thursday announced the selection of Jim Elder – the Director of Clinical Services for Re-entry Programming at the Wilmington HOPE Commission – to lead DOC’s efforts to help offenders successfully re-enter their communities, and reduce Delaware’s rate of recidivism.

As DOC’s Bureau Chief of Community Correction, Elder also will oversee mental health and substance abuse treatment programs for individuals under community supervision and in Level 4 correctional facilities.

“We have a responsibility to rehabilitate and treat the offenders who enter our custody,” said Commissioner Phelps. “I trust Jim’s experience and education will improve our current programs while also reducing recidivism in the long term. I look forward to working with him to return the men and women in our custody to the community better prepared to find success.”

The selection of Elder will place a new emphasis inside the agency on re-entry programming and efforts to reduce recidivism. The Bureau of Community Corrections oversees probation and parole, pretrial services, the community work release program and other supervision programs.

“We all have a stake in making sure that offenders successfully re-enter society, and have the opportunity to meaningfully contribute,” said Governor Carney. “It’s also imperative that we do everything we can to reduce our recidivism rate – to make sure that fewer Delawareans who spend time in our correctional system go on to re-offend. That’s a critical part of keeping our prisons safe, and reducing our prison population.”

Selection of a Bureau Chief of Community Correction with experience in re-entry programming was a crucial element of Governor Carney’s plan to reform the Department of Correction, following the Independent Review into the causes of the February 1 incident at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center.

Governor Carney on Wednesday announced the appointment of a Special Assistant at the Department of Correction who will focus on reform of management practices and training, and cultural turnaround – and report publicly on the state’s progress in implementing the Independent Review’s recommendations.

Last week, Governor Carney and the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware announced an agreement to raise salaries for Delaware’s correctional officers – including a 22 percent increase to starting officer pay. The agreement, which includes establishment of a Labor-Management committee to study additional staffing issues, will help the state recruit and retain officers across Delaware’s correctional system.

Governor Carney’s DOC plan also includes:

  • Investing $2 million in new cameras and authorizing 50 additional correctional officer positions at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center;
  • Investing $1.3 million in new equipment and training for correctional officers;
  • Directing the Delaware State Police and the Department of Correction to jointly conduct an after-action review of the February 1 incident;
  • And directing the to-be-created Department of Human Resources to implement a comprehensive staffing plan that eliminates the shortage of correctional officers.

Elder has an extensive clinical background in substance abuse treatment and mental health programming. He is currently the Director of Clinical Services for Re-entry Programming at the Wilmington HOPE Commission.

Elder is a Licensed Professional Counselor of Mental Health (LPCMH), a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDP), a board Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC) in the state of Delaware and a National Certified Counselor (NCC) under authority of the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). He has worked in the correctional treatment field for 20 years in Delaware, across the country and abroad.

He earned a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Maryland College Park and a Master’s Degree in Community Counseling from Wilmington College.

Elder will begin work July 3.


Related news:
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

Culinary Training Facility at State’s Largest Prison dedicated to memory of Delaware Restauranteur Matt Haley

Follows Governor’s proposal passed in Fiscal Year 2016 budget

Smyrna, DE – Today Governor Markell, Department of Correction and Department of Education administrators and State Senator Bruce Ennis, Chair of the Senate’s Corrections Committee, joined family members of the late Delaware Restauranteur Matt Haley and representatives from SoDel Concepts, the restaurant group he founded, to dedicate the future site of the Matt Haley Culinary Arts Training Center at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center (JTVCC) in Smyrna. Markell sought the funding to convert an unused cafeteria dining building at the state’s largest prison into the training facility, which will feature a commercial-style restaurant kitchen and an attached classroom. Funding was appropriated by the General Assembly in the Fiscal Year 2016 budget and the project is currently in the design phase.

“For the men and women in our criminal justice system, having an in-demand skill is their ticket to a better life, and Matt Haley knew that better than anybody,” Governor Markell said. “Matt’s inspirational story of redemption, hard work, and selfless service inspired us to make the investment in our prison culinary training program. Naming this facility for him will ensure that generations of men who come through these walls are reminded of the impact of his life, experience support in learning a marketable skill, and feel empowered to forge new paths for their lives.”

Haley, who founded the Delaware restaurant group SoDel Concepts, was an early supporter of culinary training programs for Delaware offenders, and cited the culinary training he received during his own involvement in the criminal justice system as a contributing factor in his entrepreneurial success.

“Matt sought out opportunities to hire and support ex-offenders who were looking for a fresh start,” said Department of Correction Commissioner Robert Coupe. “He talked about how beneficial a culinary arts program was in his life and his transition back to the community, and he wanted to pay it forward by pledging his personal support to the culinary training programs at the DOC. I shared with him our vision for a culinary program at the James. T. Vaughn Correctional Center and after Matt received the James Beard Foundation Award he told me, ‘Let’s use this opportunity to find the money to make this vision a reality.’ Today, I’m proud to celebrate the milestone we’ve reached and grateful for the role that Matt played in getting us here.”

When renovations are complete, hands-on instruction will be provided to inmates by a Department of Education culinary instructor assigned to the prison. Classroom instruction to inmates is already underway on-site, and the first class of culinary students are preparing to complete their nationally-recognized ServSafe food certification, a prerequisite for employment in the field. Several of the inmate culinary students were on-hand for today’s dedication.

The Department of Correction’s expanding workforce development programs have been established as part of the Markell administration’s focus on reducing recidivism through a series of criminal justice reforms, including the expansion of reentry resources, better coordination among agencies to connect offenders to existing services, and the creation of skills training for offenders to better position them to secure and maintain employment when they return to the community. More information is available here.

Governor’s Weekly Message: Improving Our Criminal Justice System to Create New Opportunities

Wilmington, DE – In his weekly message, Governor Markell highlighted the commitment Delaware has made to investing in alternatives to incarceration.

“One of the ways we have worked to improve public safety and create opportunity for all Delawareans is through a smarter criminal justice system – a system that reserves limited prison space for violent criminals and emphasizes treatment and community supervision for low-level offenders whose needs outweigh their risks to the community,” Gov. Markell said. “Together, these programs provide a range of services that simply aren’t available in prison and they show the potential to reduce recidivism and to transform lives for the better. And that will keep Delaware moving forward.”

Every week, the Governor’s office releases a new Weekly Message in video, audio, and transcript form. The message is available on:

By email: Please contact our press team to subscribe to our press list

Transcript of the Governor’s Weekly Message: Improving Our Criminal Justice System to Create New Opportunities

Governor’s Weekly Message: Reducing Recidivism by Expanding Job Training Efforts

Wilmington, DE – In his weekly message, Governor Markell highlights efforts to expand job training to offenders to reduce recidivism rates.

“One of the challenges to reducing recidivism across our state and around the country is the need to address the high levels of unemployment experienced by individuals who are involved in the criminal justice system and have completed their sentence of incarceration,” said Governor Markell. “By helping all Delawareans receive training they can use to build productive law-abiding lives, we’ll keep Delaware moving forward.”
Every week, the Governor’s office releases a new Weekly Message in video, audio, and transcript form. The message is available on:

By email: Please contact our press team to subscribe to our press list

Governor’s Weekly Message Transcript: Reducing Recidivism by Expanding Job Training Efforts