Carol Reconstructed


Carol Shapiro, an innovator in the field of criminal and social justice for over 35 years, is known largely for her integration of asset and family network tools for community and correctional use. Before the launch of The Shapiro Justice Initiative and following her year-long convalescence from total spinal reconstruction, she completed a fellowship residency at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio, Italy Center to write a memoir. Prior to this venture, Carol was an Associate Research Scholar at Columbia University’s Institute for Social and Economic Policy and Research. During her tenure at Columbia, Carol taught graduate seminars on Rethinking Justice as well as writing on the topic of scaling innovation in this new technical and global economy.

Carol was the Founder and President of Family Justice, a non-profit focused on tapping the strengths of families and their social networks to break cycles of victimization and justice system involvement. She has devised and collaborated on numerous initiatives to more effectively address crime prevention, addiction, pre-release, reentry, and a broad range of related issues. Much of her work centers on improving public safety and family well-being through the integration of a strength-based, family-focused approach within the law enforcement, public health, and public housing disciplines. Carol serves as an advisor to governmental and citizen-sector initiatives. She also provides technical assistance and consultation services to federal, state, and local governments and non-profits in the US and abroad.

Among her many awards and honors for social entrepreneurship, Carol is an Ashoka fellow; her start-up, La Bodega de la Familia, under the auspices of the Vera Institute of Justice, received an Innovation in American Government award. Most recently, Bryn Mawr College’s Graduate School of Social Service and Research honored Carol with a lifetime social impact award.


The Rockefeller Center at Bellagio
Imagine going to bucolic northern Italy to write a memoir on social justice. I spent a heavenly, surreal time there in 2011 working on a book that chronicles my life’s work in justice reform starting at 16 and moving through the next forty years: a perfect parallel to the war on drugs from its declaration to significant reform forty years later. Each chapter is peppered with a personal story, the context of the times, and my corresponding artwork. While the book is not fully realized, the experience has encouraged me to tap into my artistic bent to tell the story.

Associate Research Scholar,
Institute for Social and Economic Policy and Research, Columbia University
During my brief tenure at Columbia University, I researched practices to scale innovation for the greatest impact while recognizing the advance of technology and globalization. The goal of this project was to make a case to rethink current funding efforts for scaling up that rely on replication of “difficult to understand” evidence based practice. In addition to my research, I designed and taught a graduate seminar entitled “Rethinking Criminal Justice.”

Founder and President, Family Justice, Inc.
For almost 15 years, I was responsible for shaping the vision and creating the organizational and support infrastructure first for La Bodega de la Familia and then for Family Justice, a spin-off of the Vera Institute of Justice. Building on family tools championed by Salvador Minuchin, Bralio Montalvo, (with whom I studied with in the 70’s)  and Ema Genicovich (with whom I engaged as a training and tool-development partner), we identified, applied, and disseminated best practices in using family supports to improve the success of individuals under justice system supervision and enhance the well-being of their families. Aside from use of strength-based and family focused interventions, Family Justice developed new ways to engage institutional and community correctional professionals so they may in turn, be effective at keeping people successfully in the community and improving overall family well-being.

Assistant Commissioner,
New York City Department of Corrections
I was responsible for overall management and operation of Alternatives to Incarceration and Correctional Options policies and programs for one of the nation’s largest urban jail systems. It was during my work both at Rikers Island and the borough facilities that I saw first hand the impact of our drug policies on families and whole neighborhoods. Supervising both uniform and civilian staff, I also learned about the value of respect for people in very difficult positions and how the staff, incarcerated individuals, and their families were prevented from being experts in their work and lives. This work became the precursor to the neighborhood demonstration project La Bodega de la Familia.

Her Majesty’s Home Office
I had the privilege to conduct research on girls and women and to engage both researchers and practitioners to better understand the impact of current practices on single teenage mothers, mothers who lost their children to violence in public housing; as well as marginalized immigrant women and their families, family violence, and overall prison programming for girls and women. The work in the UK was to become a centerfold to my growing interest in social networks, family engagement, and the role of research intertwined with public policy.


Selected Speaking Events
Having spent the last 40 years as an advocate for justice reform, it is nearly impossible to recall those times when speaking before a crowd did not inspire a difference—both for me and those in attendance. I offer the following with great humility.

1. Testifying before Congress to include families and social networks into the Second Chance Act.

2. Addressing the International Corrections and Prison Association meeting in Prague on international practices that affect health and families.

3. Speaking on the value of Alternatives to Incarceration at the Smithsonian Institute in the late 70’s.

4. Accepting the Maud Booth Award at an American Correctional Association meeting where I humbly told my story as it related to Maud’s pioneering vision.

5. Engaging a crowd of 900 politicians, business executives, participants and staff at a fundraising event after opening La Bodega de la Familia.

6. Presenting the practice techniques and research from La Bodega with my colleague from the New York State Department of Parole before the distinguished judges of the Innovation in American Government Awards.

7. Seeing myself larger than life on a screen before 1,000 people at a national meeting on drug policy to which I had been invited by the Drug Czar, Barry McCaffrey.

8. Addressing students at Stanford University and the University of Pennsylvania while one of my sons were in the audience with their friends.

9. Traveling to New Orleans to speak at a Harm Reduction meeting on the significant role of criminal justice and its impact on poor families and communities.

10. Giving a speech in Argentina on drug policy and the role of families and correctional staff in reforming lives with spotty translation… forcing me to rely on facial expressions and physical gestures to relay my message.