TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—In another significant step of the Reimagining Public Safety law enforcement reform effort, Monalita Smiley has been selected as the project director of the recently established Community Justice Center.

Smiley will take on the role of implementing the reforms that were approved by the Ithaca Common Council and the Tompkins County Legislature in spring 2021. She is the first director of the CJC, which was created earlier this year as part of the slate of Reimagining Public Safety reforms, and a data analyst and an assistant will also be hired.

The announcement from the city states that Smiley last worked as the Director of Youth Outreach at The Learning Web while also volunteering for board membership at several local nonprofits, including the Southside Community Center, the city noted.

“I’m very excited to start in this role and help guide the implementation of our Reimagining Public Safety Plans. I have a long history of working with people from different backgrounds in our community, including people who are marginalized and those with power in the criminal justice system—I will bring those connections to this work to inform the implementation process and help make it inclusive of all perspectives,” Smiley said. “The Community Justice Center is a unique approach to collaborating on public safety improvements and transparency, and I look forward to helping lead this collaborative process.”

Smiley’s hiring was the result of a search committee’s work that included input from people from the City of Ithaca, Tompkins County and the Center for Policing Equity, which has been prominently involved in the formulation of the Reimagining Public Safety planks and its subsequent discussion.

Interim Tompkins County Administrator Lisa Holmes emphasized Smiley’s “history, connections and dedication in this community,” as reasons why she would be effective at heading the CJC.

“The establishment of the Community Justice Center is transformational, and Monalita brings exactly the qualities that we need to lead a truly inclusive process of putting our plans into action,” added Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick. “We’ve seen what can happen when we marshal resources to address acute community needs, and the CJC is poised to do exactly that across the dozen-plus joint Reimagining Public Safety plans.”

We’re hoping to do a full Q&A with Smiley soon. Submit questions to tips@ithacavoice.com!

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Education & Public Health Reporter at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com