We are a group of Delaware residents who seek to reform the system of court-imposed fines and fees that too often lead to financial insecurity, loss of employment, and imprisonment. We believe that poverty is not a crime and that an inability to pay should not result in a harsher penalty. We also believe that government services should be funded through reliable tax revenue and not be the burden of criminal defendants, 85% of whom in Delaware are indigent.
This campaign was launched in the summer of 2019 under the auspices of Network Delaware. The campaign quickly learned that the Delaware Center for Justice had been researching fines and fees and developing proposed state legislation. The campaign met monthly in the basement of SsAM Episcopal Church and strategized on how to support a previously introduced fines and fees reform bill (the old SB39). Efforts included getting Wilmington City Council to pass a supportive resolution, researching solutions, developing issue education materials, recruiting more volunteers, and meeting with legislators.
COVID brought an abrupt end to possible legislative progress in 2020. The campaign pivoted to advocating for and then disseminating information about a COVID-necessitated moratorium on consequences for failure to pay court fines and fees. The latter part of 2020 was spent pushing for better and bolder fines/fees draft legislation and priming the pump for strong community support. Legislation was drafted and entered into the system as HB244 in 2022. This bill was passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Delaware Governor John Carney in the fall of 2022.
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