Democrat for Delaware Attorney General
Each candidate was asked to respond to three questions.
1. What are the top issues you will address in your campaign and what are your plans for moving those issues forward?
The top issues I have been addressing in my campaign include: making Delaware a safer place to live, work, and to raise a family; addressing the opioid epidemic, which is a public health crisis that affects every Delaware family; reducing the recidivism rate and increasing the availability of rehabilitative services for returning citizens; ensuring that every citizen is treated fairly by the justice system, regardless of race, religion, gender, or zip code; expanding access to mental health and addiction resources.
My plan to make Delaware a safer place to live, work, and to raise a family includes expanding the work of the Crime Strategies Unit, which I started under the leadership of then Attorney General Beau Biden. The Crime Strategies Unit takes prosecutors out from behind their desks and gets them in our communities most at risk for violent crime. The Crime Strategies Units consists of a proactive weekly walk comprised of a Deputy Attorney General, a member of the Wilmington Police Department, City of Wilmington Licensing and Inspection Inspector, and a public Health official who can provide “wrap around” services to individuals. By getting out into the communities we are able strengthen relationships with individuals while addressing underlying causes of crime such as vacant properties. In addition to getting into the community on the weekly walks the Crime Strategies Unit establishes office hours at locations such as churches to allow individuals from these at-risk communities to interact with the Depart of Justice on their own terms. In order to create safe communities there needs to be a level of trust and communication between the Department of Justice, local law enforcement, and the residents of the community. During my time as the State Prosecutor under Attorney General Beau Biden we saw the work of Crime Strategies Unit reduce incidents of violent crime in Wilmington. As Attorney General, I will work to expand the Crime Strategies Unit to engage communities in all three of our counties.
Additionally, my plan to make Delaware a safer place for all includes improving the services we provide for the children of our state when they first interact with the criminal justice system. The recidivism rate for incarcerated adults in Delaware is over 70% and the figure is even higher at around 80% for the detained youth of our state. The status quo is clearly not working. That moment when a child first interacts with the court system is an opportunity to change that child’s life for the better. I believe we need to take that opportunity to wrap all the necessary services around that child so they never decide to commit a crime or pick up a gun. The focus needs to be on addressing the underlying causes of the situation that led the children to interaction with the criminal justice system. Children are our future and by properly intervening and providing the appropriate services, we can get these children back on track and prevent them from entering the adult criminal justice system.
I plan to address the opioid epidemic in our state by continuing the work of filing suit against the producers and manufactures of these opioids. The manufacturers and distributors knew the dangers of these drugs and misled the public in the pursuit of financial gain. The corporations who are responsible for the damage done to our communities must be held accountable.
As Attorney General, I will work to ensure that there are no artificial barriers that stand between an individual and the drug treatment that she or he needs. I will also work to the keep illicit drugs off our streets, facilitate entry into treatment for those who have engaged in criminal behavior as a result of their addiction, and expand the treatment resources available to those currently in the criminal justice system to begin the path to recovery.
The recidivism rate, which is over 70% for incarcerated adult Delawareans is unacceptable and must be addressed head on. My plan to reduce the recidivism rate consists of increasing the availability of job training, education, and career resources for those who are currently incarcerated. Equally as important is removing the barriers of entry that returning citizens face. Chief among these barriers is health care. When an individual who is on Medicaid is incarcerated, Medicaid coverage is terminated upon incarceration and once the individual is released, it can take weeks to months to restore coverage. I fought for a correction to this system as State Prosecutor ,and as Attorney General I will do everything I can to ensure individuals will be able to have their Medicaid coverage restored when exit a correctional facility in our state.
Over 90% of the individuals who are incarcerated in Delaware will return to their communities and will be our neighbors once again. I believe we have an obligation to give these individuals the tools necessary to exit the system better people than when they entered. I firmly believe that by providing inmates with job training and career resources while incarcerated, they will be better positioned to find a job that can be a career when they return home. Through my work as a Board member at The Achievement Center, a re-entry center located in Wilmington, I have had the privilege to work with men returning home after a term of incarceration. It has been inspiring to witness the growth and success of individuals who have participated in this re-entry program. As Attorney General, I will advocate for similar re-entry programs to be expanded to all three counties in our State. One of the unique aspects of The Achievement Center that I believe is crucial to significantly expand is the “in-reach” work, which is performed by a peer support specialist and consists of going into a facility to begin working with individuals while they are still incarcerated.
I will ensure that every citizen is treated fairly by the justice system, regardless of race, religion, gender, or zip code by continuing to fight to reform aspects of the criminal justice system that disproportionally impact certain segments of our population. This year Delaware took a step forward in reforming the cash bail system but I will advocate for the elimination of the cash bail system in the first state because the size of one’s bank account should not determine if an individual is detained prior to sentencing. Presentence detention should be reserved only for individuals who demonstrate a flight risk or pose a danger to the community. I will also advocate for the reform of drug laws that disproportionally harm city residents’ due to their inherent proximity to schools, parks, and churches. Additionally, I will use the full power of the Office of Civil Rights & Public Trust to ensure that all residents’ civil liberties are protected. Not only will I use the full statutory power of the Office of Civil Rights & Public Trust but I will have the members of this office perform active outreach to communities to educate the public on the resources available within this office of the Department of Justice.
I will use my experience to make Delaware a place where people suffering from addiction can receive the treatment they need and where people in crisis are given a helping hand and not a prison cell. Incarceration needs to be reserved for individuals who pose a safety risk to their community, not a place where people suffering from mental illness or addiction are housed. I will work to expand programs such as New Castle County’s Hero Help Program, which provides drug and/or alcohol addiction treatment to adults who contact the police and ask for treatment in lieu of arrest for lesser crimes.
2. What makes you uniquely qualified for the political office you seek?
I am uniquely qualified to serve as Delaware’s next Attorney General because of the combination of my experience prosecuting hundreds of criminal cases and my proven track record successfully advocating for criminal justice reform. Over my career, I have prosecuted hundreds of criminal cases ranging from domestic violence, sexual assaults and homicides. As a prosecutor, I had the opportunity to work with the FBI, New Castle County, and Delaware State Police in a year-long investigation to identify and arrest the only known serial killer in the history of Delaware. Following this year-long investigation I successfully prosecuted Steven Pennell for the torture and murder of five women on the route 40 corridor. This case was the first time that DNA analysis was admitted into evidence in a Delaware Court.
As Chief Deputy Attorney General, the number two official in the Department of Justice, I developed and implemented the Consumer Fraud Division, after successfully seeking legislation to provide protections to consumers. This legislation gave the Delaware Department of Justice the ability to hold individuals and corporations responsible for financially exploiting Delawareans. I am proud of establishing a unit whose charge it is to protect the assets of the hardworking residents of our State and as Attorney General I will continue my work of protecting consumers from predatory practices.
In addition to my experience as a prosecutor, I worked as a private practice attorney for sixteen years where I defended the employment rights of teachers and represented individuals accused of crimes. Not only does this experience provide me a balanced perspective on the criminal justice system but I also learned first-hand what it is like to be a small business owner.
In November of 2011, then Attorney General Beau Biden asked me to return to the Delaware Department of Justice to serve as the State Prosecutor. In this role, I supervised all criminal prosecutions statewide. During my time as State Prosecutor I was able to reform the habitual offender law, which put an end to mandatory life sentences for three felony drug convictions. I also helped strengthen gun laws involving violent felons. I created the Child Victim Unit, dedicated to investigating and prosecuting child death and near-death cases. While State Prosecutor, I successfully worked on criminal justice reform efforts, including the restoration of driving privileges for people exiting the justice system, the restoration of the voting rights of convicted felons, and reform of the bail system. Under Attorney General Biden’s leadership, I formed the Crime Strategies Unit, whose focus was to work directly in areas with high incidences of violent crime. I also collaborated with police to formulate Delaware’s first model policy for police worn body cameras and secured funds to provide the lifesaving drug Narcan to police agencies statewide.
The last case I tried as State Prosecutor involved the shooting of a five-year-old girl in the Hedgeville section of Wilmington. On a summer evening in 2013 this young girl exited her home to bring her scooter inside when shooting erupted between rival drug dealers. The young girl luckily survived but will face a lifetime of surgeries because the bullet hit an artery in her leg and shattered her growth plate. I successfully prosecuted the man responsible for that shooting. I am running for Attorney General because no child should have to fear walking out their front door. I have dedicated my life to making the justice system work better for the people of Delaware and I have the experience necessary to make Delaware a safer place to live, work, and to raise a family.
3. What community groups are you involved with and in what capacity?
I currently serve on the board of the Delaware Center for Justice, the Wilmington HOPE Commission, and Justin’s Beach House. I am also a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, “Fellowship is extended by invitation only after careful investigation, to those experienced trial lawyers who have mastered the art of advocacy and whose professional careers have been marked by the highest standards of ethical conduct, professionalism, civility, and collegiality.” Membership to the American College of Trial Lawyers cannot exceed 1% of attorneys in any state. I was the first female member of the Delaware Bar to be invited to be a member of the American College of Trial Lawyers.
# of years employed: I have been employed in Delaware for the past 40 years.
New Castle County Government County Chief Administrative Officer January 2017 – January 2018; New Castle County Acting Public Safety Director June 2017 – January 2018; Office of the Attorney General, Delaware Department of Justice, State Prosecutor from November 2011 – November 2016; Partner in Private Practice from 1995 – 2011; Office of the Attorney General, Delaware Department of Justice, Chief Deputy Attorney General from October 1993 to February 1995; Office of the Attorney General, Delaware Department of Justice, Acting State Prosecutor from July 1993 – October 1993; Deputy Attorney General, Delaware Department of Justice from July 1984 – 1993, Associate Bayard, Brill and Handelman from 1983 – 1984; Deputy Attorney General, Delaware Department of Justice from 1978 – 1983.
Education: Mount Pleasant High School 1971; University of Delaware 1975 (Degree with distinction; high honors); Villanova University School of Law 1978 (Juris Doctor)
Political experience: This is my first time running for office.