The inmate standoff with authorities at Delaware’s largest prison came at a time when the federal government appears to be shifting from a focus on criminal justice reform to enforcement and order. Delaware inmates demanded education and a “rehabilitation program that works for everybody,” saying they feared conditions would decline during the Trump presidency. The death of a correctional officer during their protest, however, may make it difficult for supporters of law enforcement to hear their broader message, reports the Christian Science Monitor.
States are almost exclusively responsible for their own prisons, but President Trump can set the tone for how Delaware and other states manage their prisons for at least the next four years, say advocates for criminal justice reform. “What’s happening at Delaware … speaks to the demands and concerns that incarcerated people have been raising around the country,” says Dan Berger, an ethnic studies professor at the University of Washington. The problems former inmates and experts speak to – overcrowding, poor educational and rehabilitation programs – are problems across the country, says David Fathi of the American Civil Liberties Union National Prison Project. Under the 1994 federal anticrime bill, inmates lost access to Pell education grants. President Obama brought back Pell grants to inmates in a pilot program.