Delaware Vote Tracker

Bill ending juvenile incarcerations in adult prisons passes Senate

Yesterday, the Delaware Senate passed legislation to stop minors from being held in adult prisons. House Bill 26 would mandate that any juvenile sentenced to prison in Superior Court must be held in the custody of the Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families until they reach the age of 18. 

The bill passed the Senate on a surprisingly close vote, 12-7-2. The bill passed the House in a divided and partisan vote as well, 27-14. All Senate Republicans voted no. Democratic Senators Hansen and Brown were absent for the vote.

So, I guess we can say that Republicans oppose criminal justice reform, fairness, rehabilitation and reason.

Currently, state law allows for children as young as 16 to be jailed in the Howard R. Young Correctional Institution under certain circumstances. While children incarcerated in adult prisons are required to be kept separated from the adult population, the practice effectively results in them being kept in solitary confinement inside the walls of a maximum-security prison. 

Under House Bill 26, no juvenile would be transferred to the custody of the Department of Correction following their sentencing in Superior Court. 

House Bill 26 SponsorsYes VotesNo Votes
Heffernan, Dorsey Walker, Lambert, Longhurst, Minor-Brown, Moore, Baumbach, Bentz, Brady, Cooke, Griffith, K.Johnson, Lynn, MorrisonPassed House 27-14. Baumbach Bennett Bentz Bolden Brady Bush Carson Chukwuocha Cooke Dorsey Walker Griffith Heffernan K.Johnson K.Williams Kowalko Lambert Longhurst Lynn Matthews Minor-Brown Mitchell Morrison Osienski Ramone S.Moore Schwartzkopf Wilson-AntonBriggs King Collins D.Short Dukes Gray Hensley M.Smith Morris Postles Shupe Smyk Spiegelman Vanderwende Yearick
Townsend, Ennis, Paradee, SokolaSenate Passed 12-7-2. Ennis, Gay, Lockman, Mantzavinos, Paradee, Pinkney, Poore, S.McBride, Sokola, Sturgeon, Twnsend, WalshBonini, Hocker, Lawson, Lopez, Pettyjohn, Richardson, Wilson. Absent: Brown, Hansen
Current Status — Sent to Governor Carney for his signature.

“Children who end up in our prison system are still children,” said Sen. Marie Pinkney, who ran the bill on the floor as chair of the Senate Corrections & Public Safety Committee. “A juvenile offense should never result in maximum security prison sentence. The fact that some of them are being held in a prison system designed for adults is both unnecessarily cruel and potentially harmful to their rehabilitation. I want to thank my Senate colleagues for recognizing that this practice runs counter to the principle of fair and equal justice.” 

“A major component of juvenile incarceration is rehabilitating young people so they can lead successful and productive lives. A teenager who uses poor judgement should not have that mistake compounded by being forced into a prison system designed for adults,” said Rep. Debra Heffernan, the lead House sponsor. “The bottom line is that it is not OK to lock up a teenager in a maximum-security prison for a juvenile offense, and that is the practice we’re ending with this bill.” 

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

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