VERA INSTITUTE OF JUSTICE INC

Securing equal justice, ending mass incarceration, and strengthening families and communities.

aka Vera   |   Brooklyn, NY   |  https://www.vera.org/

Mission

Vera is committed to ending the overcriminalization and mass incarceration of people of color, immigrants, and people experiencing poverty. Our vision is to build safe, healthy, empowered communities and a fair, accountable justice system. While Vera continues to operate across a broad portfolio, we are pursuing four core priorities vital for us to focus on right now and in the immediate future: • End the criminalization of people of color, immigrants, and people experiencing poverty. • Drastically reduce the use of jails, prisons, and detention centers. • Center dignity and minimize the harms of criminal legal and immigration system involvement. • Support safe and thriving communities with comprehensive strategies that ensure accountability and are rooted in public health.

Ruling year info

1962

President and Director

Mr. Nicholas Turner

Main address

34 35th Street, Suite 4-2A

Brooklyn, NY 11232 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

13-1941627

NTEE code info

Prison Alternatives (I44)

Research Institutes and/or Public Policy Analysis (V05)

Research Institutes and/or Public Policy Analysis (R05)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Blog

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

The U.S. justice system is complex, brutal, and broken. It is a major driver of societal inequity and racial oppression, exacerbating poverty and reducing opportunity for those who have come into contact with it. It devastates lives and communities and perpetuates a cycle of trauma and violence. Our antiquated pretrial system leaves people behind bars simply because they are too poor to pay bail. The sick and the mentally ill routinely are arrested and then warehoused in jails and prisons. An estimated 100,000 people are in solitary confinement at any given time, locked away 23 hours a day, seven days a week. Sweeping federal actions have come down hard on immigrants with little concern for fairness or due process, putting millions at risk of extended detention and permanent separation from their families and communities. The disproportionate suffering being inflicted on Americans of color remains a great shame of our nation, and a larger commitment to human dignity is all too rare.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Safety and Fairness for Everyone (SAFE) Network

Vera’s Safety and Fairness for Everyone (SAFE) Initiative is a unique collaboration of government leaders, immigration legal service providers, and advocates working together to build a movement for universal representation—a public defender system for all immigrants facing deportation. We believe that every person facing deportation is entitled to legal representation regardless of income, race, national origin, or history with the criminal legal system.

SAFE utilizes a four-pronged approach for expanding justice and fairness for immigrant communities:

1. Piloting and building a critical mass of publicly funded legal defense programs at the local and state level.
2. Generating evidence about the transformative impact of universal representation.
3. Creating narrative change in support of universal representation.
4. Supporting community-led advocacy to build momentum and advance systemic change.

As we have expanded our partnerships at the local and state level, SAFE has also worked to lay the groundwork for a national movement committed to establishing legally mandated, federally funded zealous representation for all immigrants facing deportation.

Population(s) Served
Immigrants and migrants

Vera's In Our Backyards initiative (IOB) is building a national movement to end mass incarceration and the criminalization of poverty and race in our nation's smaller cities and rural communities. For decades, smaller communities have been investing in jails and incarceration with devastating consequences. This quiet jail boom is consuming hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars that might otherwise be invested in services and infrastructure that can make people healthy and safe. Our goal is to end this quiet jail boom by decriminalizing poverty and public health, centering racial equity, and shifting power and resources to local communities (including public investments in housing, job training, education, and mental health programs).

IOB aims to achieve this goal through the following core strategies:

• Partnering closely with local organizers and advocates to support their efforts to reduce the use of arrest and jail, stop investments in new and bigger jails, and blueprint new solutions that advance racial equity and investments in communities (via community grants, research support, and capacity-building).

• Advancing local, state-level, and federal policy changes that decriminalize poverty, improve pretrial justice, and reinvest in communities (including policy models designed to limit over-policing and arrest, reduce pretrial detention, expand public investments in community-based services and infrastructure, and increase accountability to communities.

• Publishing research and analysis to promote and generate support for local, state, and national efforts to end mass incarceration in smaller cities and rural communities.

Population(s) Served
Incarcerated people

Greater Justice New York seeks to advance policies and practice that will make New York a model for ending mass incarceration and advancing racial justice in our country. Through data and policy analysis, research, training, and strategic communications, GJNY is working to:

• Shrink the footprint of policing, jails, and prisons in New York State.
• Support the work of our community partners to hold local and state leaders accountable for rectifying the harms caused by the criminal legal system, especially against Black people and communities of color.
• Advocate against jail expansion or construction, and for re-investing in services and infrastructure that truly build resilient communities.
• Reduce racial disparities in arrests, pre-trial detention, prosecutorial decision-making, and case outcomes.
• Model the impact of specific policy reforms—including bail, pre-trial detention, sentencing, and parole—on ending mass incarceration and advancing racial equity in New York State.

Population(s) Served
Incarcerated people

Vera's Initiative to End Girls' Incarceration is working to ensure that girls and gender-expansive youth are no longer criminalized and are instead supported in their efforts to advance their own lives and freedom. Our goal is to achieve zero youth incarcerated on the girls’ side of the country’s juvenile justice systems in less than 10 years. We aim to achieve this ambitious goal through the following core strategies:

• Target the top incarcerators: We are targeting the “Top Eight” states that together account for more than 50 percent of the nation’s incarceration of girls. They include California, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Zeroing out girls’ incarceration in these states would cut numbers in half nationwide. Vera is currently working with cities and counties in five of these “Top Eight” states.
• Target the lowest incarcerators: We are targeting states with exceptionally low numbers of girls that can get to zero quickly. By successfully achieving zero in these states, we seek to demonstrate that this goal is achievable and sustainable, and to encourage other communities and states to join the movement.
• Generate, implement, and scale up new solutions: We work closely with local government leaders, grassroots advocacy groups, and system-impacted young people to create and implement community-based programs that equip girls and gender-expansive youth to access resources they need to heal and grow (including healthcare, housing, and education), navigate and avoid justice system involvement, and become leaders and advocates for themselves and their communities.

Population(s) Served
Incarcerated people
Women and girls

Vera’s Redefining Public Safety Program is working to promote true public safety, as defined by communities most impacted by our criminal legal system. This includes driving systemic change that minimizes the use of policing to address social issues; ends police violence and unnecessary enforcement that disproportionately harms Black people and communities of color; and advances data transparency to promote accountability, trust, and racial justice.

Our work includes the following core elements:

• Partnering with community-based organizations and advocates, elected officials, and practitioners to build their capacity for advancing systemic change in public safety policy and practice.

• Collecting and making accessible data and information about police budgets, operations, discipline and training, misconduct complaints, and unnecessary enforcement that disproportionately harms Black people and communities of color.

• Conducting research to advance crisis response programs that connect people in crisis to community services, while minimizing involvement with the criminal legal system and centering race equity.

Population(s) Served
Adults
Ethnic and racial groups

Vera’s Reshaping Prosecution program is equipping progressive prosecutors to use the power of their offices to:

• Examine the historic roots and impacts of mass incarceration and systemic racial inequities in the criminal legal system, and how the policies and practices of their offices are related to and exacerbate those systemic inequities.
• Implement data-driven policies and practices that reduce incarceration and center racial equity.
• Become more transparent and accountable to the communities they serve, particularly with those most impacted by the criminal legal system.
• Ensure that changes in policy and practice are sustainable and institutionalized in each office by involving staff at all levels in their development and implementation.

To achieve these goals, Vera uses in-depth engagements of up to 18 months with prosecutors, rigorous data analysis, relationship building with community advocates, and training for line staff with “real-world” examples of how prosecutors can drive change. Vera collaborates with each office to develop and implement concrete, data-informed changes in policy and practice designed to reduce mass incarceration and promote racial equity.

Population(s) Served
Incarcerated people

Restoring Promise, an initiative of the Vera Institute of Justice and MILPA, works with prisons and jails to address the root causes and consequences of mass incarceration in how it manifests in prisons and jails. We work directly with prisons and jails to transform the culture, climate, rhythms and routines that define the prison system, starting with young adults. Young adults are “mentees” who participate in meaningful daily activities, deepen their connection to their culture and healing, cultivate an ideology of self-determination, and restore relationships with family and community. Mentors (people over the age of 25) support them in their personal growth. Staff undergo intensive training to become agents of change in support of this mission.

Population(s) Served
Incarcerated people
Young adults

Vera launched our California-focused work in 2019, partnering closely with communities and government to reduce the use of incarceration, combat racial injustice, and increase investments in community-based systems of care in the state. Vera California shares our partners’ ambitious vision of wellness, safety, and racial equity for all Californians. We will leverage our access to data, policy analysis, best practices, and relationships to:

• Dramatically reduce incarceration in Los Angeles, close Men’s Central Jail, and secure investments for a robust system of community-based care so that the county can serve as a model for similar ‘care first’ approaches statewide and nationally.
• Support local organizers, advocates, and government partners across the state in decarceration and divest/reinvest efforts that deliver real community safety.
• Harness the power of advocacy to win durable and impactful local and state policy reforms.

Population(s) Served
Incarcerated people

In partnership with local government and advocacy partners, the goal of Vera—New Orleans is to advance policies and practices that disrupt over-policing and mass incarceration, center racial justice, and invest in solutions that truly build thriving communities in New Orleans and Louisiana. In order to achieve our long-term goal, the Vera New Orleans team will seek to:

• Reduce the jail incarceration rates in Orleans and Baton Rouge parishes so that they are among the lowest in the country.
• Transform the approach of criminal legal reform in New Orleans and Louisiana so that it is centered on public health and safety rather than punishment.
• Increase public investments in community-based services and infrastructure, including crisis response models that minimize involvement with the criminal legal system.
• Pursue a robust communications strategy that lifts up the accomplishments of our community and government partners, centers the experiences of people impacted by the criminal legal system, and shapes public discussion of and support for systemic change.

Population(s) Served
Incarcerated people

For nearly a decade, Vera's work to expand access to quality postsecondary education in prison has been a cornerstone of our commitment to affirming human dignity behind bars and advancing racial equity. Reflecting our commitment to changing this dynamic and building on strong bipartisan support, Vera and our allies partnered on a four-year campaign that culminated at the end of 2020 with Congress lifting the 26-year-old ban on Pell Grants for people in prison. Once implemented, this change will empower tens of thousands of people in prison to access higher education. To achieve this historic victory, we worked in close partnership with advocates, corrections officials, college administrators, policymakers, and formerly incarcerated students who stepped forward to share their stories.

With the reversal of the ban, our focus now shifts to implementation and ensuring that all incarcerated students have the opportunity to access quality higher education, the support they need to complete their programs, and the ability to secure well-paying jobs when they leave prison. Over the next three years, Vera will assist colleges and prisons in designing and implementing high-quality college-in-prison programs. There are four key areas that we are focusing on.

• Vera is launching a Corrections Education Leadership Academy (CELA) to support current and future corrections education leaders with creating statewide education systems for incarcerated people.
• Vera will assist colleges and prisons new to working together to design their college-in-prison programs, including processes for recruitment, enrollment, class selection, discipline, and staff training.
• Vera will pilot and advance strategies that colleges and corrections departments can adopt to reduce racial disparities for incarcerated students, the majority of whom are Black or brown people, and improve enrollment and completion rates for students of color.
• Vera will engage and cultivate relationships with college accrediting agencies, which are critical to ensuring the quality and success of large-scale college in prison programs (which will include assisting them with updating their policies to support expansion of high-quality college-in-prison programs, connecting them with education directors in state corrections facilities, organizing site visits to prison classrooms, and creating a training series to help them understand what quality college-in-prison programs look like).

Vera is uniquely qualified and positioned to provide leadership and support for this work. Since 2016, Vera has served as the designated technical assistance provider for the Second Chance Pell Experimental Sites Initiative (Second Chance Pell)—a pilot program launched by the U.S. Department of Education to test the return of federal Pell Grants to people in prison.

Population(s) Served
Incarcerated people
Extremely poor people
Low-income people

Where we work

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

The mission of the Vera Institute of Justice is to drive change and to urgently build justice systems that ensure fairness, promote safety, and strengthen communities. Our core priorities are:

1) Closing Mass Incarceration's Front Door. Our goal is substantially fewer people held in jail. We are working to shrink the jailed population by reducing the use of money as a determinant for release, increasing diversion from incarceration for substance use and mental health services, and reducing police over-reliance on arrest.

2) Improving Life Behind Bars. Our goal is a justice system that prioritizes restoration over retribution.

3) Securing Justice, Safety and Fairness for a More Diverse America. We believe that no matter the color of your skin, or where you or your family come from, you should have access to these basic human rights. Real change requires due process protections, the acknowledgement and confrontation of bias, and partnerships with leaders in diverse communities.

Vera's work is focused on systemic change, through reform of policy and practice that affects beneficiaries who come into contact with justice systems. Our theory of change hinges on working in partnership with public sector leaders. They are essential to system reform and need help to execute it. We work with them, spurring innovation and driving data-and values-informed change. We deliver our services to the leaders of state and local public institutions, where most justice policy and practice is governed and shaped: our police departments, courts, jails, and prisons. We then use our strategic communications capacity to amplify the successes of our partners, and to ensure that successful reforms are widely copied in order to create a “new normal".

With offices in four major cities and projects in more than 40 states, no other justice reform organization in the United States can equal Vera’s
unique combination of wide-ranging expertise, national reach, and capacity to create breakthrough ideas and implement solutions at scale to transform lives and strengthen communities. We listen closely, accept and offer feedback constructively, invite diverse perspectives, and treat each other and our partners with respect and compassion. We ask difficult questions, entertaining unconventional answers, and reckoning with any uncomfortable truths that our research and practice may reveal. We actively engage others—from those denied justice to those charged with its administration—because we are most effective when we work in partnership. We dedicate ourselves to the highest standards in research and practice because nothing short of continual learning and improvement will help us effect the change we seek. And we are committed to the ongoing and necessary work of disrupting and eliminating structural racism and white supremacy, internally and externally, in order to fully realize race equity in our justice system and beyond.

Vera has a strong track record of advancing justice reform. We helped New Orleans reduce its jail population by nearly 70% in ten years by reforming police practice, the use of bail, and court processing. We helped Philadelphia plan to reduce its jail population by 34 percent in three years by reducing the role of bail and expanding safe alternatives to jail. We are working with 64 institutions of post-secondary education in 28 states to expand college-in-prison programs serving 12,000 incarcerated students. We are using compelling research, storytelling, and partnerships with state and local advocacy groups to combat the rise in small-town and rural incarceration, change policies that criminalize poverty and race, and reinvest public dollars in solutions that can make small cities and rural communities healthy and vibrant. We are helping three states implement a radical new model for working with incarcerated young adults that prioritizes restoration and healing. We are using in-depth data analysis and training to equip reform-minded prosecutors in seven jurisdictions to use the power of their offices to rectify the harms of systemic racism, end mass incarceration and the criminalization of communities of color, and promote transparency and accountability to communities. We co-founded a program providing legal representation to over 2,500 poor immigrants detained in New York – inspiring us to create a new, national network of 18 cities committed to protecting the rights of immigrants and their families.

Financials

VERA INSTITUTE OF JUSTICE INC
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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VERA INSTITUTE OF JUSTICE INC

Board of directors
as of 7/29/2021
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Mr. Damien Dwin

Brightwood Capital Advisors, LLC

Term: 2020 -

Damien Dwin

Brightwood Capital Advisors, LLC

Debo Adegbile

Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP

Roger Blissett

Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group

Caron Butler

Dawn Dover

Kekst and Company

John Gleeson

Debevoise & Plimpton LLP

Evan Guillemin

Select Equity Group LP

Sandra Lamb

Lamb Advisors LLC

Catie Marshall

Theodore McKee

US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

Frederick Schwarz, Jr.

Cravath, Swaine & Moore

Danya Perry

Perry Guha LLP

Khalil Muhammad

Harvard Kennedy School

Tiffany Moller

Pallas Global

John Madsen

Goldman Sachs Group, Inc.

Caron Butler

John Savarese

Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz

J. Hudson

Crowe & Dunlevy

Bari Mattes

Justin Tuck

Goldman Sachs

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 05/27/2021

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Multi-Racial/Multi-Ethnic (2+ races/ethnicities)
Gender identity
Male
Sexual orientation
Decline to state
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

 

Sexual orientation

No data

Disability

No data

Equity strategies

Last updated: 06/01/2021

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

Data
  • We review compensation data across the organization (and by staff levels) to identify disparities by race.
  • We ask team members to identify racial disparities in their programs and / or portfolios.
  • We analyze disaggregated data and root causes of race disparities that impact the organization's programs, portfolios, and the populations served.
  • We disaggregate data to adjust programming goals to keep pace with changing needs of the communities we support.
  • We employ non-traditional ways of gathering feedback on programs and trainings, which may include interviews, roundtables, and external reviews with/by community stakeholders.
  • We have long-term strategic plans and measurable goals for creating a culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.
Policies and processes
  • We use a vetting process to identify vendors and partners that share our commitment to race equity.
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.