Humanities

The formula for reform

Transforming the state’s criminal justice system

Transforming the state’s criminal justice system

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 departmentsOpens in new window, including Raleigh and Charlotte, have started to adopt “8 Can’t WaitOpens in new window” 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 SmithOpens in new window, 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.

SmithOpens in new window, who also runs theCriminal Justice Innovation LabOpens in new window(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.

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