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JRI Year: 2012



The Delaware Justice Reinvestment Task Force was convened in July 2011 to study the state’s criminal justice system, including factors contributing to prison overcrowding and the state’s disproportionate violent crime rates.1 When the Task Force was established, Delaware’s arrest rate for violent crimes was significantly higher than that of the United States as a whole.2 The state’s four prisons were over capacity, and budget shortfalls led to trimming Delaware Department of Corrections operational costs.3


After analyzing the factors contributing to these challenges, the Task Force, assisted by the Vera Institute of Justice, developed a policy framework to implement data-driven decisionmaking, strengthen data analysis capabilities, and target prison resources to people at the most significant risk of recidivating.4 Some of the specific steps recommended to achieve these goals included adopting a pretrial risk assessment to inform release decisions, increasing use of criminal summons in lieu of arrest for certain offenses, identifying criminogenic risk factors and addressing them to reduce recidivism, and providing judges with risk and needs assessment information to assist in sentencing decisions.5 Legislators incorporated recommendations into Delaware Senate Bill 226, which then-Governor Jack Markell signed on August 8, 2012. The bill prompted Delaware to implement several policy and practice changes.


Through JRI, Delaware implemented data-driven decisionmaking in its criminal justice system, including developing a pretrial risk assessment to inform judges about the likelihood of individuals appearing for trial, enabling safe community release, and preserving bed space.6 Since the tool was implemented, pretrial detentions have decreased 33 percent, and pretrial defendants in 2018 made up 17 percent of the prison population, down from 23 percent in 2010.7

For more information, see Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI): Delaware.

JRI-Driven Policies and Practices

  • Improve/revise pretrial release systems
  • Establish/revise presentence assessment
  • Expand good-time/earned-time prison credits/reentry leave
  • Establish/expand earned discharge (probation/parole)
  • Authorize/develop/modify graduated responses or matrices for violations
  • Require evidence-based practices
  • Require/improve risk-needs assessment
  • Improve behavioral health interventions
  • Require data collection/performance measures

1 2012, Delaware Justice Reinvestment Task Force Consensus Report, retrieved June 2, 2023 from, 1. 

2 Ibid., 2.

3 Ibid., 2.

4 Ibid., 1.

5 Ibid., 4, 5.

6 Megan Russo and Samantha Harvell, 2020, Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI): Delaware, Washington DC: Urban Institute, retrieved May 19, 2023 from

7 Ibid., 1.

Photo by Famartin and licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0)

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