To: Deputy Attorneys General and Staff
From: Attorney General Kathleen Jennings
Re: Date: February 15, 2019
The Delaware Department of Justice (DOJ) remains committed to making the criminal justice system fair, equal, and accessible to every person regardless of race, income or ZIP code. Prosecutors have a unique and powerful role in how the system operates. Unlike any other attorneys, we are ethically bound to consider and protect the rights and needs of all Delawareans—victims, the public, and the accused. Our overarching responsibility is to do justice; that is, to do the right thing in every action we take. Prosecutors have the power to charge or not to charge; to choose which charges to bring; to offer a plea or not, and to recommend a sentence. These decisions substantially impact peoples' lives, their sense of justice, their liberty, their livelihood, and their families, in addition to the community's fundamental faith in the system. These are decisions you make every day, often with limited resources, and they are decisions I made throughout my career as a Deputy.
Many of you, and the public, are frustrated by aspects of the criminal justice system. Overabundant and redundant minimum mandatory sentences, laws that disproportionately impact traditionally underrepresented, economically challenged people, and the collateral consequences of criminal records have contributed to the high rates of incarceration and recidivism that lead to us seeing many of the same defendants over and over again. We cannot control what other agencies or stakeholders do, but we can change our practices and policies to reverse this trend and increase fairness and proportionality in the system, while at the same time improving public safety and restoring community trust.
Make no mistake: I know you work tirelessly, night and day, to protect us and to do justice. This change in direction and focus is not a condemnation of all ideologies and philosophies of the past, or the fine public servants who were dedicated to those ideals. Indeed, I've spent the majority of my career here. Rather, this is a reaction to the realities of the present. We must adapt. The problematic issues are systemic and not attributable to the outstanding individuals who work here, but we are uniquely positioned to help.
These changes are designed to call more attention and resources to be devoted to the offenders who are driving a significant proportion of serious and violent crime while reducing the impact on low-level, non-violent or first time- offenders for whom rehabilitation and second chances should be the goal.
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