Oversight committee: Council on Correction ‘not equipped to succeed’

Darryl Chambers

DOVER — Lawmakers at the Joint Legislative Oversight and Sunset Committee meeting on Tuesday night bemoaned the Council on Correction’s “short list of accomplishments” during a presentation by the group’s newly elected chairman, Darryl Chambers.

Sen. Anthony Delcollo, R-Marshallton. said that the council’s history, in general, was scant on details.

“I see your mandate as being to make suggestions on the best way for the Department of Correction to function,” he said. “I’m seeing a lack of material support for such an important function. You have this mission that is of vital importance and, in my view, reviewing the materials and hearing what your aspirations are, you’re not set up to achieve those things. That really bothers me.”

However, the committee didn’t hold Mr. Chambers responsible for the perceived shortcomings, saying that, by all appearances, he’d inherited a “dysfunctional” council.

Former chairman Roger Levy and past members Melissa Dill and Elder Tyrone Johnson were removed in late September. Three new members, including Mr. Chambers, were brought on in October. The council now has a total of seven members.

The council, established by state code, is designated to serve in an advisory capacity to the commissioner of correction and “shall consider matters relating to the development and progress of the correctional system.”

Under the previous leadership of the council, the group also regularly failed to make a quorum at their scheduled meetings, said lawmakers.

Mr. Chambers said that since assuming the chairmanship of the council every meeting has made a quorum, they’ve built new by-laws, established several subcommittees and laid out new priorities.

“Under my stewardship, you’re going to see changes with this council, we’re not here to just check a box,” he said.

In addition to examining and reviewing DOC policy for potential improvements, Mr. Chambers said he’s interested in expanding community outreach in hopes that the council can act as a liaison and improve relationships between law enforcement officials and residents.

Sen. Delcollo also suggested the council consider compiling an annual report of its activities and suggestions — perhaps also monitoring progress of the promised prison reforms in the wake of the Feb. 1 prison riot last year at James. T Vaughn Correctional Center.

“We have a disturbing tradition of not following through on suggestion made in prison reports,” said Sen. DelCollo.

In the coming months the council hopes to move several of their meetings to public venues in Wilmington and New Castle County.

“We want to be out in the public a little more and engage with the community so we can have buy-in from everyone,” said Mr. Chambers. “There are some people — some of the most affected by DOC policies — that may feel a little uncomfortable coming to a meeting on McKee Road.”

Although the meetings are open to the public, the Council on Correction has traditionally met at the DOC headquarters on McKee Road in Dover.

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