Commentary: New year, new session, new vision for criminal justice reform

The new year brings feelings of hope and optimism, and we make resolutions regarding our happiness, lifestyle and relationships. While there are a variety of reforms set to take place this session, such as improving access to voting and enshrining the historic Delaware Equal Rights Amendment in our state constitution, I am taking this time to lay out solutions to our criminal justice system.

Just as we give ourselves clean slates at the start of every year, I want to ensure that those who may have made mistakes in the past are not hindered in their abilities to succeed in the future.

There are a variety of steps we can take this session to fix our broken criminal justice system. A major issue is our overflowing prison population. We’ve made progress in adjusting Delaware’s cash bail policy so each person is treated individually, and not unfairly incarcerated simply for failing to have the funds to post bail. Criminalizing poverty is immoral and no way to run a state.

Rep. Sean Lynn

Building on that work, we should look at reducing the prison population by exploring sentence modification in specific situations in which the incarcerated individual is no longer a danger to society.

As we work to reduce the prison population, we must look at the support systems in society that an individual comes home to. We need to create expungement policies that are easier to navigate for both adults and juveniles.

This year, I’m considering legislation that would give more adults the opportunity to seek a second chance and gain meaningful employment. Expungements free people from the constraints of having a damaging record, and we should be streamlining that process and improving access to those with limited resources.

Lastly, young people in contact with the judicial system are vulnerable, and each interaction impacts their progress. In the past, we have ignored the effects of publicizing alleged juvenile criminal activity on social media.

This session, I plan to introduce legislation to raise the age at which a juvenile’s information and photo could be published by the state and address when that information is shared online.

We are at a crossroads regarding criminal justice. With one of the largest incoming classes in the General Assembly, we have an opportunity to make sweeping and influential changes to the criminal justice system that will give all Delawareans a chance to succeed and thrive for years to come.

Rep. Sean Lynn is chair of the House Judiciary Committee. He represents the Dover area.

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