Smart Justice is a campaign to end mass incarceration and systemic racism in the criminal legal system. We're led by Smart Justice leaders – advocates who have been directly harmed by the criminal legal system ourselves. Smart Justice was at the Capitol day in and day out this year, fighting for a healthier, freer Connecticut. We lobbied for bills to increase access to education, workers’ rights, children’s rights, voting rights, and more, in addition to our top priorities of beginning to create prosecutorial accountability and banning police deceptive interrogations of children.

We helped people learn more about how to be effective advocates with our videos about how to give public testimony and build relationships with legislators, rallied outside of the Capitol on May 16 to encourage legislators to pass our priority bills, spoke seven times in solidarity at our allies' events, and kept up the drumbeat for progress in hundreds of videos and posts on social media.




Get to know more from our leaders’ testimony

Tracie's Testimony

Tracie Bernardi testified on bills about parole eligibility for young people, strip searches in prisons, and IDs for people leaving incarceration.

ACLUCT smart justice leader Tracie Bernardi stands facing the camera and smiling. She is wearing a blue Smart Justice zip-up and a yellow People Not Prisons pin. To her left is an ACLUCT banner that says we the people dare to create a more perfect union

"As human beings we are all constantly evolving. I’m certainly not the same teenage child I was three decades ago. Sentencing someone to more than 10 years without an opportunity for a second look suggests that change is not possible. I know from first-hand experience that change is extremely possible with the right support. A person who made a mistake can grow up to be an asset to their community, like I am today." 

Tracie's testimony on S.B. 952, regarding parole eligibility for young people

Tracie's testimony on H.B. 1196, regarding strip searches with the Department of Corrections, and H.B. 6875, regarding state IDs for people leaving incarceration

Shelby's Testimony

Shelby Henderson testified in support of prosecutorial accountability.

ACLUCT Smart Justice leader Shelby Henderson sits behind a desk, smiling at the camera, with one hand on her chin. She is behind a desk, laptop and wearing a blue people not prisons shirt, with ACLU of CT banners and a people not prisons poster behind her

"State’s Attorney should be representing the interests of the people of Connecticut—that includes incarcerated and formally incarcerated individuals. PEOPLE LIKE ME. Reasonably my scrutiny focusses on fairness and efficiency. How do I know if the State’s Attorney are fairly implementing justice? Or more appropriately, the question is…how would you know if they were not? The only way I could comment on their work is once every eight years when a State’s Attorney is up for an appointment. It is necessary to require State’s Attorneys to be transparent and accountable for the decisions they make."

Shelby's testimony on S.B. 1070, regarding prosecutorial accountability

Curtis's Testimony

Curtis B. Hudson testified in support of the state providing IDs to people who are reentering society after incarceration.

Smart Justice Leader Curtis Hudson standing and smiling next to an ACLU of CT poster

"I am a person who has gone through the reentry process here in Connecticut and in other states. In the state of New York they recognize how important an ID is and will make sure either you have it before you leave a correctional facility or they will literally walk with you from a halfway house to the Department of Motor Vehicles to obtain one. Here in Connecticut, however, I had to obtain three pieces of mail that could prove my new address, which could take two to three weeks, before I could go the DMV to get an ID. And of course that required some amount of money which I didn’t have because I wasn’t able to find employment without an ID."

Curtis's testimony on H.B. 6875, regarding IDs for people reentering society after incarceration

Brittany's Testimony

Brittany LaMarr testified in support of S.B. 1071, to end deceptive interrogations of children by police, and in support of expanding access to education.

ACLUCT smart justice leader Brittany Lamar stands, smiling and facing the camera. She is wearing a blue people not prisons t-shirt and has long blond hair.

"When I was 22-years-old, I was arrested. When I was questioned by the police, officers made promises to me that were clearly not real, like telling me I could go home after I confessed to them, or that I would be given a bond that I could afford, or that people I knew had said things about me that were not true. While I was not a juvenile, I wasn’t much older than the ages of many of the people you have/will hear from today who gave confessions as juveniles that were not true and resulted in wrongful convictions. I have been fortunate to have been able to complete my sentence and am now in law school at the University of Connecticut. I am also the Assistant Director of the National Prison Debate League. When I become a practicing attorney, whether working with clients or in court, or preparing incarcerated people to exchange ideas in educational spaces, lying or deceiving will never be an acceptable way to interact with people. That could not be more necessary for children, who are vulnerable to deceptive tactics, especially when they are in the custody of the police – people who should otherwise be protecting them, not coercing them into making a confession." 

Brittany's testimony on S.B. 1071, regarding police deception

Brittany's testimony on H.B. 923, regarding access to education

Lori's Testimony

Lori LeDonne testified in support of fair, predictable scheduling for workers.

ACLU-CT smart justice leader Lori LeDonne stands, smiling at the camera and wearing a blue zip up sweatshirt. Behind her is a legislative hearing room

"Every person should be able to work in an environment that treats them with respect. Last year I worked in a restaurant that is part of a national chain. This was the first job I had after serving some time in prison – it was the only job I was able to find that would hire me, even though I had a long resume and a great work history. I had no choice, I had to take what I could get. At this particular restaurant, nearly every employee was formerly incarcerated. And when we were hired, we began at one wage, but for our second paycheck, our hourly rate actually dropped by $2 an hour. When I questioned my boss 'Why?' his response was 'I did it because I could.'"

Lori's testimony on H.B. 6859, regarding predictable scheduling for workers

Marquita's Testimony

Marquita Reale testified in support of a bill to end deceptive interrogations of children by police.

ACLU of CT Smart Justice leader Marquita Reale stands, smiling at the camera and holding up a peace sign. she is wearing a blue people not prisons hoodie

"No one, and especially children, should be imprisoned because the police coerced, manipulated and deceived them into saying something that is not true. When I think about my son, who like I said is 15-years-old, I pray that he never has to interact with the police. I am truly scared that the police would not be looking out for his best interests in any situation, and that is not how it should be."

Marquita's testimony on S.B. 1071, regarding police deception 

Terri's Testimony

Terri Ricks testified in support of creating police-free schools and an end to strip searches in prisons.

ACLU CT Smart Justice leader Terri Ricks sits, smiling at the camera and wearing a brown jacket and brown hoodie.

"I have faced every kind of challenge that a Black person, a Black woman, can face in their lifetime. SROs in my high school only enhanced the problems that we faced as students. Instead of allowing young people to be in school and operate at their own pace, because a kid might come to school hungry, or wasn’t able to sleep the night before because of issues they were dealing with at home, schools became places of punishment and fear, instead of learning. That was what it became for me. I was that kid." 

Terri's testimony on H.B. 1095, regarding keeping police out of schools

Terri's testimony on S.B. 1196, regarding strip searches in prisons


Donald Rivers spoke out on bills throughout legislative session, including S.B. 1070, to begin creating prosecutorial accountability.

ACLU of CT smart justice leader Donald Rivers smiles, facing the camera and wearing a brown coat over a blue people not prisons hoodie

"My favorite day of the session is when S.B. 1070 passed. That is when we held prosecutors accountable."

Will's Testimony

Will Roberts testified in support of a bill to expand access to education.

ACLU of CT Smart Justice leader Will Roberts stands, facing the camera, wearing a blue people not prisons hoodie

"I believe in a society where all people, including those who have been convicted or accused of a crime, should have an equal opportunity to build successful and fulfilling lives. All people deserve to live their lives without barriers to being happy and productive residents ... I made it on the Deans several semesters. It was there that I ran into my second barrier."

Will's testimony on S.B. 923, regarding access to education

Manny's Testimony

Manuel Sandoval testified in support of expanding access to education, creating police-free schools, banning deceptive police interrogations of children, and increasing the minimum wage for incarcerated workers.

ACLU of CT Smart Justice leader Manuel Sandoval faces the camera, standing and holding a framed collage commemorating his LCSW. he is wearing glasses and a blue people not prisons hoodie

"Over the past 10 years, I’ve worked with youth, ages 11 to 24 across Hartford Public Schools. All too often I have witnessed young people traumatized on a regular basis by the SROs and police officers within the school system."

Manny's testimony on S.B. 1095, regarding creating schools free from school resource officers (SROs)

Manny's testimony on S.B. 1071, regarding banning police deceptive interrogations of children

Manny's testimony on H.B. 5033, regarding the minimum wage for incarcerated workers

Manny's testimony on S.B. 923, regarding expanding access to education


Alex Brown was at the Capitol, lobbying and speaking out, week in and week out.

Image description: Alex Brown, ACLU-CT Smart Justice leader, stands, smiling directly at the camera. She is wearing a blue People Not Prisons t-shirt and black long-sleeved shirt under it. Her long brown hair is in a ponytail.

Alex advocated in support of numerous bills in 2023, including bills to end police deceptive interrogations of children, begin creating prosecutorial accountability, and improve voting rights.


Gus's Testimony

Gus Marks-Hamilton testified in support creating prosecutorial accountability and expanding voting rights.

Gus Marks-Hamilton ACLU of Connecticut / ACLU-CT Smart Justice field organizer

"Every Connecticut resident is affected by the decisions made by Connecticut prosecutors, known as 'state’s attorneys.' People accused or convicted of a crime, their families, victims of crime and their families, and taxpayers who foot the bills for both prosecutors’ budgets and the cost of incarceration are impacted by the criminal legal system and deserve to know about the role that prosecutors play in the operation of the criminal legal system. Prosecutors hold people’s lives in their hands."

Gus's testimony on S.B. 1070, regarding prosecutorial accountability

Gus's testimony on H.B. 5702, to allow people incarcerated with a felony conviction to vote 

Anderson's Testimony

Anderson Curtis testified in support of expanding voting rights to include people who are incarcerated with a felony conviction.

Anderson Curtis, ACLU of Connecticut ACLU Smart Justice Connecticut field organizer

"As a person, who has had my voting rights restored and exercises my right to vote I believe enfranchisement is an integral way for all Americans to participate in the democracy that governs them. The ACLU-CT has submitted written testimony, but I wanted to take a moment to describe my own experience registering people on parole to vote which recently enfranchised people on parole the right to vote."

Anderson's testimony on H.B. 5702, to allow people incarcerated with a felony conviction to vote

Because of Smart Justice leaders' advocacy, by the end of the 2023 legislative session, both of Smart Justice's priority bills -- S.B. 1070, An Act Concerning Prosecutorial Accountability; and S.B. 1071, An Act Concerning Deceptive Interrogation Tactics -- had passed into law.  

In the end, Smart Justice testified 18 times on ten bills in five different legislative committees. Of the ten bills we supported, six passed into law, during a session when many efforts at change did not make it all the way through: 

  • S.B. 1070: AAC Prosecutorial Accountability (PA 23-26) goes into effect on October 1, 2023
  • S.B. 1071: AAC Deceptive Interrogation Tactics (PA 23-27) goes into effect on October 1, 2023
  • H.B. 6875: AAC The Issuance Of An Identity Card (PA 23-88) goes into effect on April 1, 2024
  • S.B. 952: AAC Parole Eligibility For A Person Under 21 (PA 23-169) goes into effect on October 1, 2023
  • S.B. 1196: AAC The Use of Body Scanning Machines (PA 23-12) goes into effect on October 1, 2023
  • SB 1: AAC Transparency In Education (PA 23-167) went into effect on July 1, 2023 
  • H.B. 5004: AAC Implementing Early Voting (PA 23-5) went into effect on July 1, 2023, and applies to all elections held on or after January 1, 2024.

Smart Justice is ready to keep working toward a freer, fairer, healthier Connecticut.