Our prisons, not just here in Delaware but across the country, have been hotspots of COVID infections and spread. I know some say that the pandemic could have been handled better in our prisons, but really, think about it. A prison is an enclosed space where you place hundreds of prisoners, who often times share cells, or bunk together in one large room. They share dining and recreational space. You can’t really social distance or isolate every prisoner. It’s an ideal space for community spread.
So what to do? The only thing really is to release some prisoners early. But how do you that under the law?
Well, that’s where State Representative Melissa Minor-Brown and her bill, House Bill 37, comes in.
Minor-Brown chairs the Corrections Committee in the House, has been working with legislators on a bill, House Bill 37, that would seek to increase good time credits for some prisoners for their time served in prison during the pandemic.
The bill would create a “public health emergency credit” that would automatically be awarded when a public health emergency is declared. Credits would be awarded at the rate of 6 months for every month served during the public health emergency up to a maximum reduction in sentence of one year.
|House Bill 37 Sponsors||Yes Votes||No Votes|
|Minor-Brown, Dorsey Walker, Moore, Baumbach, Heffernan, Morrison|
|Pinkney, S.McBride, Sokola|
|Current Status: Out of Committee 1/26/21|
From the bill synopsis: “This has the practical effect of moving forward release dates for inmates whose release would come within the next year regardless of the emergency. This will reduce the prison population in an orderly and fair manner, relieving pressure on staff and creating better conditions for those inmates who remain incarcerated to socially distance and control the spread of infectious disease. By applying additional credit towards sentence completion, this legislation also recognizes that the conditions of confinement during a public health emergency like the current one can be considered significantly more punishing – since visitation, communications, programming, and recreation are all significantly negatively impacted by the emergency conditions and modifications to operations.”
The ACLU of Delaware held a forum on the bill recently. You can watch that below: