Del. Bill Would End Incarceration Of Juveniles In Adult Prisons


Delaware would stop incarcerating juvenile offenders in adult prisons, under a bill given approval in the State Senate Tuesday. The measure would require any juvenile sentenced to prison in Superior Court to be held in the custody of the Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families until they reach age 18.

Juveniles as young as 16 can currently be held at Wilmington’s Young Prison under certain conditions, while being kept separate from adult inmates.

“Children who end up in our prison system are still children,” Senator Marie Pinkney, D- New Castle said. “A juvenile offense should never result in maximum security prison sentence. The fact that some of them are being held in a prison system designed for adults is both unnecessarily cruel and potentially harmful to their rehabilitation. I want to thank my Senate colleagues for recognizing that this practice runs counter to the principle of fair and equal justice.” 

“The effort to remove Delaware’s youth from adult prison facilities has been years in the making, culminating today with the passage of House Bill 26. The ODS thanks Rep. Heffernan, Sen. Townsend, and Sen. Pinkney for their continued leadership and advocacy,” Office of Defense Services Chief of Legal Services Lisa Minutola said. “Past research has shown that imprisoning children in adult facilities has very harmful effects, including an increased risk of recidivism and a disproportionate impact on people of color. Children need rehabilitative services that address their unique needs. If we want to ensure that Delaware’s children can pursue the brightest future possible, we need to treat kids as kids – not as miniature adults.” 

House Bill 26 goes to Governor John Carney for his signature.