Smart Justice

Ending the era of mass incarceration means dismantling the tough-on-crime approach and racial bias that has come to define criminal justice. 

That’s why cutting the prison population by half and challenging the racial bias in the system are the primary goals of our Campaign for Smart Justice.

Our aim is to educate the public about the staggering number of Delaware residents who have been adversely affected by the justice system and how that system disproportionately impacts people of color. Through public education, grassroots organizing, and legislative advocacy, we will challenge the system and create change for individuals, families, and communities.

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 the footprint of mass incarceration. A goal like ending mass incarceration is an ambitious one, but we’re up for the challenge and are tackling every piece of the puzzle.


Our wins

When we started the Delaware Campaign for Smart Justice in 2018, we set an ambitious, multi-faceted goal of ending mass incarceration and challenging racial disparities in our justice system. Since then, 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, 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

Smart Justice Chapters

If you have an interest in improving Delaware's justice, are looking to get involved, or become more informed on these issues, then our volunteer Campaign for Smart Justice chapter meetings may be for you!

We currently have active volunteer chapters in each of Delaware’s three counties. Monthly chapter meetings offer members of our communities the opportunity to:

  • Stay informed on justice reform in Delaware;
  • Discuss perspectives on issues and solutions for Smart Justice; 
  • Identify action items to help the Delaware Campaign for Smart Justice; and,
  • Find other ways to advocate for justice reform.

All are welcome to join our chapter meetings. Find out when your county’s next meeting is by visiting our events page.

Learn more about CSJ Chapter Meetings

 

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

Historically, communities that are most deeply impacted by Delaware's legal system have the least access to the resources, training, and support needed to help change the legal system. In 2021, the Campaign for Smart Justice launched a Smart Justice Ambassador program to recruit, train, and empower Delawareans who have been impacted by those systems, enabling them to make changes for the better.

Smart Justice Ambassadors (SJAs) complete a paid, extensive training to better understand and navigate avenues for change, and to grow the skills necessary to become community advocates on Smart Justice issues such as policing, sentencing, prison, reentry, probation, expungement, and more.

Learn more about the Smart Justice Ambassador program


Reports & resources

Briefing memo

Our briefing memo includes the full Smart Justice platform.


Stay up-to-date on Smart Justice efforts.

Sign up for Smart Justice updates


 

2022 Smart Justice Priorities

Police reform

Under current laws in Delaware, the public is not guaranteed any transparency in a police-involved incident. In fact, Delaware’s Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights (LEOBOR) makes public access to police investigations nearly impossible. As a result, the public has no insight on why an incident occurred, what could have been done to prevent it, or what disciplinary actions, if any, happened as a result of the investigations.

That’s why police reform is one of our top advocacy priorities for 2022. We’re focusing on amending the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights by passing SB 149. We will be advocating with legislators, educating and organizing communities, and partnering with other advocates to see SB 149 become law this year.

Learn more about Police Reform

Probation reform

For individuals returning home after incarceration, the hurdles to successful reentry are substantial. Returning citizens struggle to find housing, transportation, medical care, and employment at a liveable wage. On top of this, many face mental health and substance addiction challenges. The probation system and its myriad of reporting requirements, meetings, costs for treatment, curfews, and surveillance are insurmountable hurdles for too many.

If we change our probation system and the culture around community correction, we change lives. That’s why reforming the probation system is one of this year’s Smart Justice priorities.

Our Smart Justice team has been working with people affected by the probation system to get their input on changes needed within the system and partnering with allies to reimagine probation laws  — and we will continue to work on advocacy avenues for probation system reform this year.

Learn more about Probation Reform

Clean Slate

Eligibility for expungement doesn't always mean access to expungement, but Clean Slate legislation passed in 2021 can help change that.

SB 111’s automation of the expungement process and SB 112’s expansion of mandatory expungement eligibility are important next steps in Delaware’s movement to a more equitable, just, and economically prosperous future.

This year, the Clean Slate Delaware campaign will continue to work on expanding access to second chances by providing expungement clinics throughout the state, helping people navigate the record clearance process, and working with community partners as well as legal partners to provide the resources necessary for eligible Delawareans to receive an expungement. Clean Slate Delaware will also continue advocating for the successful implementation of Delaware’s automatic expungement process, which will take effect in August 2024.

Learn more about Clean Slate Delaware

Smart Justice Ambassadors

We launched a Smart Justice Ambassador program in 2021 to recruit, train, and empower Delawareans who have been impacted by the justice system. Smart Justice Ambassadors complete extensive training that helps them grow the skills necessary to become community advocates on Smart Justice issues such as policing, sentencing, prison, reentry, probation, expungement, and more.

Smart Justice Ambassadors (SJAs) from the 2021 cohort are continuing their work by advocating for legislation, policies, and initiatives to reduce the prison population and challenge racial disparities within the justice system. We plan on holding a second SJA training in 2022, date TBA.

Learn more about the Smart Justice Ambassador program