About the NAACP Criminal Justice Program

The goal of the NAACP Criminal Justice Department is to advocate for and advance a better public safety system that reduces the reliance on prisons as means of solving social problems, advances effective law enforcement and removes barriers to voting and employment for formerly incarcerated people. The Criminal Justice Department will accomplish its goal in ways that is responsive to individual needs and builds stronger families and communities.

In efforts to advance Criminal Justice goals, the Criminal Justice Department has developed a "smart and safe" framework to implement an advocacy agenda to ensure public safety as a civil and human right for all communities and more specifically the many communities in crisis. Instead of calling for "tough on crime" rhetoric and lock'em up practices, Smart and Safe was developed to capture the true goals and aspirations of how public safety and criminal justice institutions should operate and perform in communities.

Our communities will only become safer when trust is built between the criminal justice system and the communities they serve, when more help and services are provided as opposed to prison, when citizens coming home from prison can vote and work freely and when we expand and reinvest our prison budgets on education and other civic institutions that helps and serves communities.

Four Components to the Smart and Safe Initiative:

  1. Advancing Sentencing Reform and The Right to Vote for Formerly Incarcerated People
  2. Advancing Effective Law Enforcement Practices
  3. Elevating and supporting the voices of crime survivors
  4. Removing Employment Barriers for formerly incarcerated people

Principles of Smart and Safe:

Smart and Safe means educating our young people instead of putting them in prison. Over the last 30 years, we have seen a disturbing trend where state governments have made lopsided investments in prisons over higher education. Not only is an investment in prisons over education a sign of our misplaced priorities, but it has real world consequences. In communities where more dollars are being invested in prison, students underperform. Excessive spending on prisons to incarcerate adults and youth have only made communities more vulnerable and has done little to make those communities safer. Shifting resources form prisons to educational institutions is a public safety strategy that works and an investment in young people for the future.

Smart and Safe means shifting resources to address violent crime. In far too many neighborhoods across the country, the majority of police resources are used to address non-violent drug related offenses, as murder and rape cases go unsolved. In addition, more dangerous criminals would be caught if we eliminated the high cost of imposing the death penalty and transferred funds to the investigative departments of local law enforcement agencies focused on violent crime. Given that communities of color are victims of violent crimes, a reallocation of resources to violent crimes will make communities of color safer.

Smart and Safe means calling for effective policing strategies that builds trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve. Smart and Safe calls for community policing where cops walk the beat and get to know people in their community, and had more than jail cell at their disposal when they encounter public safety challenges in the community. Smart and Safe also means holding law enforcement accountable for excessive use of force, police misconduct and racial profiling.

Smart and Safe means providing formerly incarcerated people the opportunity to work and vote. When our nation's citizens return from prison and have an opportunity for redemption and employment, all our communities win. Employed returning citizens are more than one-third less likely than their counterparts to recidivate but when given a chance to be productive citizens, are capable of turning their lives around permanently.When this happens, our economy is stronger and public safety increases.

Our Accomplishments

About the Criminal Justice Staff