The formula for reform

The shockwaves caused by the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in May have been felt more than 1,300 miles away in North Carolina. Anti-police brutality protests led by Black Lives Matter activists usher in changes throughout the state. Some police departments, including Raleigh and Charlotte, have started to adopt “8 Can’t Wait” reforms, a list of eight policing policies that, if enacted, could reduce police violence by 72%.

The U.S. criminal justice system is receiving a historic level of critical attention, particularly on front-end issues like police brutality, monetary bail systems and the criminalization of poverty. While this time is difficult to navigate, Jessica Smith, the W. R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of Public Law and Government in the UNC School of Government, remains optimistic about the future — and busier than ever.

Smith, who also runs the Criminal Justice Innovation Lab (CJIL), has worked tirelessly to support evidence-based reforms that promote a fair and effective justice system since she arrived at Carolina in 1999. Paperwork covering issues like policing and bail was piled on her desk long before such topics reached 24-hour news cycles in 2020.

“I’m really gratified that people in the community are beginning to understand the intersection of the justice system with so many social issues,” she said.

Read the complete Carolina Story…

Related Stories

Ask a Professor: Naomi André

Ask a Professor: Sarah E. Dempsey

EnviroLab gets NASA grant for heat mapping