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Carney signs host of criminal justice reform bills into law

Gov. John Carney has signed eight criminal justice reform bills into law that are designed to protect juveniles from facing lifelong consequences for their actions while providing second chances to adults to help them turn their lives around.

“I’ve said before that talk is cheap, and it’s on us to make progress,” Carney said in a news release. “This has been an incredibly productive session for the General Assembly on making meaningful change to criminal justice reforms. Thank you to the members of the Delaware Legislative Black Caucus for leading the Justice for All Agenda, to the members of the General Assembly, and to the many advocates who worked on these important pieces of legislation.”

Among the bills signed by the governor, mandatory reviews of use-of-force protocols by police officers are now expanded and interrogations of suspects must be recorded. In addition, the new laws will prevent the publication of juvenile mugshots, end the practice of prosecuting children under the age of 12, and widen the state’s adult expungement policies, according to the release.

House Bill 115 prevents children under the age of 12 from being prosecuted, except when they are facing serious charges such as first- or second-degree rape, murder or using a firearm to commit a crime. The bill also prevents transferring juveniles under the age of 16 to Superior Court.

“Adolescents’ brains aren’t fully developed until they’re in their mid-20s, so charging 10-year-olds with crimes only damages the child’s future. Too many lives have been sent down a dark path because of a youthful mistake,” Rep. Chukwuocha, D-Wilmington North, said in the release. “There are better ways to hold young children accountable for minor incidents without causing lifelong problems by putting them into the criminal justice system at such a young age.”

The governor also signed House Bill 215, which now requires law enforcement officials to electronically record interrogations if the crime is committed by an adult or delinquent act performed by a child. Under the bill, the recording can be either video or audio, according to the release.

Under House Bill 162, a fund will be created for competitive grants that will be deployed to prevent juveniles from entering the criminal justice system. The law sets aside $500,000 for cognitive behavioral therapy and vocational training services.

The governor also signed House Bill 243, which prevents the release of juvenile mugshots from being released on social media pages or websites, unless the crime committed is a felony or the release of a picture would be necessary to preserve public safety.

A bill expanding the power of the Department of Justice’s Division of Civil Rights and Public trust, Senate Bill 148, was signed by the governor. The law provides for the review of use-of-force incidents results in serious injury. Plus, the law requires the reporting of the race of the individual involved in the situation to determine if race played a factor.

The Clean Slate Act was also signed into law, and automates the state’s expungement process for adult and juvenile records by eliminating the need for a petition to be filed with the Bureau of Identification. The state has estimated that more than 290,00 adult records would be affected once the law is in place.

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