Michael Smith, a Voice for Justice Reform, Is Dead at 78

Michael Smith, who helped form insurance policies that promoted neighborhood policing, eased money necessities for bail and inspired prosecutors and judges to discover alternate options to jail, died on May 31 at his house in Minneapolis. He was 78.

The trigger was lung most cancers, his spouse, Katherine Kruse, mentioned.

From 1974 via 1995, Mr. Smith profoundly influenced the legislation enforcement agenda in New York, nationally and even overseas as an official of the Vera Institute of Justice, a nonpartisan analysis basis now primarily based in Brooklyn, and as a member of metropolis and state commissions appointed to advocate bail and sentencing reforms.

“I always referred to him as ‘a tough-minded innovator with a heart who was more interested in results than credit,’” Bill Bradley, who attended Princeton University alongside Mr. Smith in addition to additionally Oxford University, the place they have been each Rhodes students, and who went on to turned a high-scoring New York Knicks ahead and a United States senator, mentioned by e mail. “How did he get things done? He got other people to believe his ideas were theirs.”

Among the experimental and prototypical initiatives at Vera that have been spun off as quasi-public businesses have been the New York City Victim Services Agency, the New York City Criminal Justice Agency, the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, the Center for Employment Opportunities and the Center for Alternative Sentencing and Employment Services, in addition to packages for renters dealing with eviction and for older folks and folks with disabilities.

Jeremy Travis, a former president of John Jay College of Criminal Justice who’s now the manager vice chairman for felony justice at Arnold Ventures, a philanthropy, credited Mr. Smith with laying the groundwork for nonprofit businesses “to do the work of justice” in New York City, and for the introduction of neighborhood policing within the mid-1980s.

Through experiment and analysis, Mr. Travis mentioned, Mr. Smith’s technique was “We’re going to learn from something and work with government to make policies more fair and effective.”

In 1982, Mr. Smith instructed The New York Times that “to put the entire burden of crime control alone on the Police Department — we wouldn’t find enough police officers to substitute for all the other forces around that we need to control behavior and guide adolescents in their growing up.”

In one other Times interview, he mentioned: “You can generate more arrests this year than last year every year. But if you want to create safety, you have to put the police in an operating alliance with other institutions.”

Lucy Freedman, a former president of the Victim Services Agency (now Safe Horizon), mentioned by e mail that Mr. Smith’s questions “led to an analysis that revealed that 40 percent of robberies were committed by people known to the victim, encouraging police to reframe how they thought about prevention, which contributed to new approaches to community policing.”

The Vera Institute of Justice was based in 1961 by Louis Schweitzer, a philanthropist, and Herb Sturz, a journal editor who went on to change into chairman of the City Planning Commission and a deputy mayor through the Koch administration. It was named for Mr. Schweitzer’s mom. The two males’s aim was to right what they seen as inequities in a bail system that detained defendants merely for being poor.

“Many institutions fail when their visionary, charismatic founder leaves,” mentioned Greg Berman, who directed the Center for Court Innovation, based as a partnership between the New York State Unified Court System and the Fund for the City of New York, for 25 years.

“That wasn’t the case at Vera,” Mr. Berman added. “Following in Herb’s footsteps, Michael solidified Vera’s reputation as one of the most important criminal justice reform organizations in the country.”

Michael Edward Smith was born on June 30, 1942, in Manhattan to Francis E. Smith, an importer, and Alexandra (McNally) Smith.

Raised in Darien, Conn., Michael attended the Hill School in Pottstown, Pa., and graduated in 1965 with a bachelor’s diploma from Princeton. In the summer season of 1964 he coordinated volunteers for the Mississippi Freedom Schools at Princeton; that fall, he was the beginning heart on the faculty’s undefeated soccer crew.

From 1965 to 1967, he was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford, the place he earned a diploma in philosophy, politics and economics and roomed with Mr. Bradley. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 1970.

After working as an assistant to Charles E. Goodell, a Republican senator from New York, he helped set up a public-interest legislation agency, the Legal Action Center of the City of New York, and served as its deputy director. He directed a Vera workplace in London, which experimented with felony justice packages in Britain, from 1974 to 1977. He returned to New York as Vera’s deputy director and was its director from 1988 to 1995.

After leaving Vera, Mr. Smith taught at the University of Wisconsin Law School in Madison till 2009. In addition to his spouse, whom he met when she was a legislation professor there, he’s survived by his son, Graham Smith; his daughter, Charlotte Smith; his stepson, Kinkaid Kruse-Frink; his stepdaughter, Evelyn Rose Livermore; and his sister, Catherine Sheridan Smith.

Mark Usdane, who labored with Mr. Smith at Vera, remembered him as “smart,” “irreverent,” “determined” and “intolerant of grousing.”

“Not once,” Mr. Usdane mentioned in an e mail, “did I take a can of worms to him that he didn’t redefine, ventilate and elevate.”