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.
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.
Unforunately, SB 345, sponsored by Senator Marie Pinkney, stalled during the 2022 legislative session. SB 345 would modernize Delaware's probation system by implementing the following reforms:
- Ending incarceration of probationers for technical violations;
- Enabling the customization of conditions of probation to meet individual needs;
- Requiring the collection and publication of data on probation;
- Investing in community-based re-entry programs; and
- Limiting probation terms to 1 year.
Probation reform remains a Smart Justice Campaign priority. We are committed to working with community members, coalition partners, and elected officials to reintroduce and pass probation reform legislation during the 2023 legislative session.
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.
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.
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. Participants will 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.
We are not currently recruiting Smart Justice Ambassadors (SJAs). Sign up to recieve Smart Justice updates and be the first to know when we open applications for our 2023 cohort.
Reports & resources
Our briefing memo includes the full Smart Justice platform.
Stay up-to-date on Smart Justice efforts.