On Wednesday, the Delaware Legislative Black Caucus were joined by Governor John Carney and Attorney General Kathy Jennings in calling for sweeping reforms and an end to systemic racism in the First State's criminal justice system.
On Thursday, she spoke with Peter MacArthur on WDEL's Del-AWARE to discuss more in-depth her position and how she wants to use her authority to drive the change she sees as being necessary for Delaware to achieve equality.
"I think it's important for everyone to have a voice in this process of reforming what we see and know to be long standing, centuries-old structural racism in our country," Jennings said.
The history of inequality among the black and low-income populations has reached a tipping point, and protests across the world sparked by the killing of George Floyd while in police custody have brought this inequality to the forefront of national conversation.
"I think that has to occur in all government offices. We cannot, as leaders, condone a culture where he people are treated differently because of the color of their skin. We are better than that. We are better than that," she said. "The time has come when we should be treating everybody the same. But what we know, when we read the history books and we see it in front of our very eyes, is that that's not true; that black and brown people are treated differently; that arrests of black people are far disproportionate to the percentage of people in our population, as well as the number of people who are sitting in prisons. I believe over 60% of the people in our prisons are black, yet they represent 22% of Delaware's population. There's something wrong there."
Jennings said the recent issues have revealed change needs to begin from deep within the system to create lasting change. That's why Delaware is looking to rectify these injustices with changes to its own laws.
"We've been working really hard successfully with the legislature to enact criminal justice reforms that will eat away at those disparities and equalize the system so that it's fair and just for everyone, regardless of the color of your skin, regardless of the size of your wallet, and regardless of the zip code where you live," Jennings said. "We are working towards that world."
There also needs to be change to the law enforcement protections that exist, but can be abused to hide bad actors who taint the name of all the good officers out there protecting their communities, she said.
"There are various laws that affect the operations of police departments, that affects the practices of individual officers," Jennings said. "And let me just say, from the outset, the vast majority of police officers in our state are outstanding civil servants. They join the police department for the right reasons. They want to help people. They want a world that's more peaceful, a better place. But unfortunately, in a practice, the laws protect the few bad actors, [who] avoid public scrutiny because their Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights statute prohibits disclosure of disciplinary records of those officers and we believe that shining a light on what's going on is going to build community trust and will ensure that the public knows that the government's doing its job."