Smith Receives Dogwood Award from N.C. Attorney General

A headshot of faculty member Jessica Smith

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein announced today that School of Government faculty member Jessica Smith has been recognized with the Attorney General’s Dogwood Award. Smith, the director of the Criminal Justice Innovation Lab (CJIL) at the School of Government, is being honored for her work on pretrial reform.

“I share this award with my Criminal Justice Innovation Lab team and my research partners at UNC and beyond,” Smith said. “More importantly, I share it with the stakeholders—the judges, prosecutors, defenders, law enforcement leaders, legislators and community members who put their trust in me to work with them on the most pressing problems impacting communities. My work isn’t fast and my work isn’t easy, but if it makes North Carolina better, it’s worth it.”

Created in 2017, these awards honor North Carolinians who are dedicated to keeping their fellow citizens safe, healthy, and happy in their communities. Smith is one of 26 award recipients this year. Honorees are working on issues including opioid response, elder protection, support and justice for survivors of sexual assault, eviction protection, parental leave, natural resources, and much more.

“Jessie Smith is conducting important research into the way North Carolina’s bail system treats people,” Stein said. “I appreciate the work Jessie has done on the issue of pretrial release and am proud to honor her with a Dogwood Award.”

The W.R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of Public Law and Government at the School, Smith’s work with CJIL convenes stakeholders within the criminal justice system to examine challenges, find consensus solutions, and effectively measure the impact of their efforts. Her efforts are enhanced by her longtime collaboration with North Carolina judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, law enforcement officers, and magistrates.

Under Smith’s leadership, CJIL aims to provide North Carolina officials with the tools and data they need to make informed decisions for their communities. Its projects touch a broad spectrum of the state’s criminal justice system, including bail, policing practices, juvenile justice, and more.

Smith played an integral role in efforts to reform the state’s juvenile justice system from 2015 to 2017, resulting in the passage of “Raise the Age” legislation effective December 2019. This year, CJIL announced the launch of The Citation Project in partnership with the North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police (NCACP). The project seeks to implement citation in lieu of arrest policies in pilot communities throughout North Carolina and will rigorously evaluate outcomes in participating communities. Smith has also collaborated with a multitude of communities and counties on the evaluation of court-sponsored bail reform pilot projects. 

Learn more about CJIL at