Coalition for Smart Justice

Who we are

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.

Coalition partners

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Coalition wins

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.

Despite tough battles over SB 345 and SB 149 during the 2022 legislative session, the Smart Justice Coaliton aims to reintroduce meaningful and effective probabtion and police reform legislation this year. Sign up for Smart Justice updates to stay informed about new legislation. 

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Coalition priorities

Police reform

Advocates with the campaign will focus on amending the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights. Through advocacy with legislators, public education, community organizing, and partnerships with other organizations, the campaign hopes to see meaninful legislation become law this year.

Learn more about police reform

The ACLU of Delaware previously opposed SB 149 due to amendments introduced in March 2022. Read our statement to learn more.

Probation reform

The probation system and its myriad of reporting requirements, meetings, costs for treatment, curfews, and surveillance are insurmountable hurdles for too many people returning home after incarceration. The Delaware Campaign for Smart Justice 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 they will continue to work on advocacy avenues for probation system reform this year.

Learn more about probation reform

Clean Slate Delaware

This year, on the heels of the Clean Slate legislation passed in 2021, 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

Smart Justice Ambassadors

The campaign launched a Smart Justice Ambassador program in 2021 to recruit, train, and empower Delawareans who have been impacted by the justice system. After completing an extensive training that helped the ambassadors grow their advocacy skills, the group continues their work by advocating for legislation, policies and initiatives to reduce the prison population and challenge racial disparities within the justice system.

Learn more about the Smart Justice Ambassador Program