‘Rally for Justice’ coming to Dover on Saturday

DOVER — Ken Abraham believes mental illness and/or drug addiction are the root causes of 90 percent of crimes committed in America.

“I know it and the cops know it,” said the former Delaware Deputy Attorney General and defense lawyer. “We focus on locking people with addiction and illness up instead of on treatment and rehabilitation.”

On that note, the Citizens for Criminal Justice nonprofit will hold its fifth annual Rally for Justice event on The Green Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The gathering is designed to bring attention to what organizers describe as a legal system needing significant repair.

Ken Abraham

In particular, Mr. Abraham believes those with mental health issues are “ignored” when involved in court and crime issues.

“Prisons have become the new insane asylums,” he said.

There’s solace in the apparently growing national conversation regarding problems in the system, Mr. Abraham believes, but “things aren’t going to change overnight and we’ve got to keep the ball rolling.”

Attendees are encouraged to bring their own hand held signs to promote their organization or cause. The first rally in 2013 drew a crowd of 80 to 100, and Mr. Abraham hopes for up to 200 attendees this year if the weather allows.

“This is not a political event, it’s an event about justice and fairness,” said Mr. Abraham, noting that mass incarceration currently plagues the criminal justice system, exacerbated by a need for bail reform, access to rehabilitation and treatment, sentencing reform and probation and parole oversight.

“Things being what they are today, never before has there been a more important time to address the severe problems that are plaguing the criminal justice system and affecting society as a whole,” Mr. Abraham said.

With Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn pushing for an addiction-related high school and treatment for addicts, Mr. Abraham believes the state is progressing toward issues affecting criminal justice. AG Denn recently announced he will not seek re-election.

“It’s a loss to Delaware that he’s leaving office, but I know he will continue to have a positive influence in the state’s criminal justice system no matter what he chooses to do next,” Mr. Abraham said. “Matt Denn has done a lot to improve the state of the criminal justice system in Delaware, but there’s much more to be addressed.”

Scheduled speakers

City of Dover Mayor Robin R. Christiansen will offer opening remarks at 9 a.m., followed by a host of speakers. ACLU of Delaware Executive Director Kathleen MacRae has committed to either attend or send a representative, Mr. Abraham said.

Also scheduled to speak is Delaware Civil Rights Coalition Coordinator Charito Calvachi-Mateyko.

Canaan Baptist Church the Rev. Chris Bullock said the February death of Correctional Officer Lt. Steven Floyd Sr. during an inmate uprising at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna spotlighted problems within the state’s incarceration network requiring immediate attention.

Though unable to attend Saturday’s rally, the Rev. Bullock will have his thoughts read aloud, including “God ultimately holds each one of us accountable. But … significant improvements can be made not only with broad and sweeping new laws, but by holding people accountable for their actions, one person at a time.

“Therefore, I join Mr. Abraham and many others in asking our government to recognize that we have serious problems of abuse in the prisons, and to take steps to address that issue. Doing so will avoid much possible chaos and mayhem, and will most certainly improve our communities and state.”

More information is available by calling 423-4067 or going online to www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net. The organization’s Facebook page has accumulated nearly 1,100 followers from across the nation, Mr. Abraham said.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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