Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings, elected in 2018, brings years of public service experience working as a state prosecutor, Chief Deputy Attorney General, and Chief Administrative Officer for New Castle County. During her tenure as prosecutor, she focused on protecting families and children from domestic violence, sexual assault, and homicides. She worked tirelessly to make the criminal justice system more fair and equitable for communities, such as by bringing legislation to end mandatory life sentences for people convicted of drug crimes. As Attorney General, she received high praise for introducing the most progressive agenda for criminal justice reform in the country and for her work in advancing consumer protection for vulnerable Delawareans.
General Jennings’ major actions (and wins) in:
- REFORMING THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
Attorney General Jennings has been a vocal leader in advocating for criminal justice reform as a former state prosecutor. Just six weeks after assuming the role of Attorney General, she presented an internal memo to her Department of Justice prosecutors and staff outlining key reforms aimed to reverse the trend of high recidivism and inequality rooted in the state’s criminal justice system. Her set of reforms has been applauded by activists and organizations for being an exemplary model for other state justice departments to follow in their efforts toward meaningful criminal justice reform. In the memo, General Jennings lays out 37 presumptive guidelines that seek to bring critical reforms, three of which are highlighted below:
- Emphasize judicial discretion in sentencing and avoid “stacking” of minimum mandatory sentences
- Introduce policies that allow for mental health and drug addiction treatment before prison sentences
- Promote restorative justice processes that prioritizes rehabilitation and re-entry efforts
In addition to implementing changes within the Delaware Justice Department, General Jennings collaborated with lawmakers and defense attorneys to bring about a comprehensive criminal justice reform package in 2019, which contains 19 bills that seek to rebalance the inequities present in the current system. Among the series of bills, General Jennings is actively working to pass House Bill 5, which seeks to give judges greater discretion to allow defendants to serve sentences for individual charges concurrently.
Her office also continues to support initiatives like the Actual Innocence Program, which seeks to ensure that incarcerated people who prove their innocence with empirical evidence do not continue to serve time in Delaware’s correctional facilities.
- PROTECTING CONSUMERS
Protecting consumers from predatory financial lenders is a top priority for General Jennings. As former Chief Deputy Attorney General, she led the effort to create the Consumer Fraud Unit, which served to protect vulnerable people like the elderly and people with disabilities from financial exploitation by investigating patterns of abuse and seeking remedies. In June 2019, General Jennings filed a lawsuit against the home developer Regal Builders for violation of the Consumer Fraud Act after multiple homeowners complained of misleading and deceptive commercial practices. In April 2019, her office successfully secured a settlement with Exeter Finance—an auto financier responsible for illegally financing subprime auto loans—and provided $550,000 in relief to affected borrowers in Delaware. General Jennings also secured relief for students in Delaware previously defrauded by the for-profit college IIT Tech as part of the multistate settlement.
General Jennings in the Press:
- WDEL 101.7 FM: Women on the rise in Delaware politics and beyond. Kevin Hayes, 4/23/2019.
- Profile in The Intercept: Delaware Attorney General Kathleen Jennings Has Unveiled a Startingly Progressive Reform Agenda. Shaun King, 03/11/2019.