Smart Justice

Smart Justice in Delaware means reducing the size of our prison population so that more resources can be devoted to high-quality programs that build communities and reduce mass incarceration.

Our aim is to educate the public about the staggering number of Delaware residents — disproportionately people of color — who have been negatively impacted by the justice system. Through public education, grassroots organizing, and legislative advocacy, we're challenging the system and creating change for our communities.

Our Priorities

Rethink Re-entry. Reform Probation.

Previous examinations of Delaware’s prison system have found that the revolving door between probation and prison drives incarceration in our state. The current probation system focuses on surveillance and punishment rather than helping people successfully reenter society. The excessive reporting requirements (meetings with officers, costs for treatment, curfews, etc.) can be insurmountable hurdles for individuals who are already struggling to find housing, transportation, medical care, and employment at a liveable wage.

Our 2020 report on Delaware's broken probation system spurred the development and introduction of what is now Senate Substitute 2 for Senate Bill 4, sponsored by Sen. Marie Pinkney. The bill will assess people’s needs and provide support as they navigate the reentry process by:

  • Restricting the use of incarceration for technical violations of probation and limit the maximum length of incarceration that may be imposed.
  • Tailoring the probation conditions to consider the specific risks, circumstances, and resources of the individual. 
  • Prohibiting sanctions to be imposed for conduct that was not willful. This includes an inability to meet probation requirements due to lack of financial resources, medical conditions or disability, or other factors beyond the individual’s control. 


Our Wins!

Our work under the Smart Justice umbrella has helped to accomplish historic reforms for our state’s justice system.

In 2018, the General Assembly passed a major juvenile expungement bill, giving Delaware Family Court the option to immediately expunge a felony arrest record if a child is found not delinquent or the charge is dismissed, thus eliminating the need for a separate application and proceeding.

In 2019, the General Assembly passed another important expungement bill expanding access to second chances for adult Delawareans by creating adult expungement opportunities for most misdemeanors and felonies after a 3-7 year waiting period (depending on the underlying crime) without another conviction.

2021 was a big year for justice reform, with five bills passed that tackle Smart Justice issues:

  • SB 111, which automates the mandatory expungement process to make record clearance more accessible for people seeking a second chance;
  • SB 112, which expands the list of cases that are eligible for mandatory expungement;
  • SB 147, which made it clear that use of force must be justified by what a reasonable person would have believed, rather than what the officer in question believed;
  • SB 148, which expanded the Attorney General’s ability to investigate non-lethal use of force incidents and requires that race data is tracked and reported in use of force incidents; and
  • HB 195, which created a requirement that certain police officers and other employees of the Department of Correction use body-worn cameras to record interactions with members of the public.

Get Involved

Coalition for Smart Justice

The Coalition for Smart Justice is a statewide group of organizations and individuals who advocate for a criminal justice system that fosters public safety by reducing mass incarceration, recidivism, and racial disparities. Through legislative reform, public education, community organizing, and grassroots advocacy, the coalition challenges policymakers to create change that will have a significant positive impact on individuals, families, and communities.

Learn more about the Coalition

Smart Justice Ambassador Program

In 2021, the Campaign for Smart Justice launched a Smart Justice Ambassador (SJA) program to recruit, train, and empower Delawareans who have been impacted by those systems, enabling them to make changes for the better. Participants complete an extensive paid training to better understand and navigate avenues for change. SJAs grow the skills necessary to become community advocates on Smart Justice issues like policing, sentencing, prison, reentry, probation, expungement, and more.

Smart Justice Ambassador program


CSJ in the Community

ACLU-DE staff and advocates pose on the stairs of Legislative Hall with Sen. Marie Pinkney
SS 2 for SB 4 Lobby Day

ACLU-DE staff and advocates pose on the stairs of Legislative Hall with Sen. Marie Pinkney during our 2024 Probation Reform Lobby Day

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