LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Senate bill creates a more dangerous Delaware

Rape. Strangulation. Carjacking. Battery. These are just a few of the terrible crimes committed by the career criminals that might soon be released into our communities thanks to legislation, Senate Bill 163, that just passed in the Delaware Senate. [“Delaware Senate approves changes to habitual-offender law,” article, March 25]

That’s right. Last Thursday [March 24], the Senate decided to make life easier for three- and four-time felons, passing a bill from Attorney General Matt Denn to make it easier for our state to release hardened criminals back onto our streets.

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Sen. Colin Bonini

We read, sometimes it seems almost daily, about violent crime in some of Delaware’s toughest neighborhoods. Violence in Wilmington seems almost uncontrollable. And yet, some of my colleagues thought it was a good idea to put more career criminals back onto those streets!

Mark my words. Delaware will be less safe if this bill becomes law. These are career habitual criminals. They are not accidents of happenstance or victims of circumstance. These individuals have been convicted of a felony at least three separate times on at least three separate occasions! On the other end of each of those crimes is a victim. Where is the compassion for the victim? Can we show them at least a fraction of the deference that we’re showing hardened criminals?

The supposed justification for this legislation is the relatively high imprisonment rate in America. This is obviously a legitimate concern, and it’s important we have a healthy debate about it and other criminal justice issues. However, to be clear, each of the criminals affected by this new legislation committed at least three separate felonies! We’re supposed to let repeat offenders roam our streets because liberal advocates think our prison population is too high? If releasing hardened criminals is the right answer, then, clearly, we’re asking the wrong questions.

Look, I believe in rehabilitation. I believe in second chances. I also believe our prisons should be productive places, not just warehouses. I have talked with Delawareans who are leaving prison on the right path, with real dedication to living a better life. And I believe we ought to support and offer hope to those who do. But if you’ve been convicted of three or four separate violent felonies, you have chosen your career: you are a career criminal. The likelihood of these criminals committing another serious crime is frighteningly high.

On Saturday [March 26], The News Journal printed an article titled “Nationwide program arrests 50 in Del.” The federal government created a program known as Operation VR12; it “focused heavily on repeat offenders, zeroing in on fugitives who had three or more prior felony arrests for crimes such as murder, attempted murder … .”

These 50 offenders that VR12 found in Delaware are the exact kind of criminals SB 163 is going to release. The U.S. Deputy Attorney General, Sally Q. Yates, clearly states that we can target and apprehend individuals based on their records: “If you can identify the core group of violent offenders – and focus on getting them off the street – you can clean up entire neighborhoods.”

Why are we putting both the community and police officers in harm’s way by releasing these exact type of criminals? Is it fair to our law-enforcement officers to expect them to put themselves at risk apprehending these criminals, knowing that they will be under-charged or released early?

The last thing Delaware needs is to be perceived as “criminal-friendly” by enacting this kind of misguided legislation.

I remain vehemently opposed to coddling career criminals and filling our streets with three- and four-time felons. Delaware deserves better than this. We have a moral obligation to keep Delawareans safe, and SB 163 will clearly make Delaware a more dangerous place to live.

State Sen. Colin R.J. Bonini
R-District 16 (“Dover South” – includes Bowers, Frederica, Little Creek and Woodside, as well as the part of Dover Air Force Base that is in Dover city limits and unincorporated areas with Camden, Dover and Wyoming addresses.)
Camden

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