About Us

The Vera Institute of Justice combines expertise in research, demonstration projects, and technical assistance to help leaders in government and civil society improve the systems people rely on for justice and safety.

Vera is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit center for justice policy and practice, with offices in New York City, Washington, DC, New Orleans, and Los Angeles. Our projects and reform initiatives, typically conducted in partnership with local, state, or national officials, are located across the United States and around the world.

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Our Story

In 1961, philanthropist Louis Schweitzer and magazine editor Herb Sturz recognized the injustice of a bail system in New York City that granted liberty based on income. Working with criminal justice leaders, they explored the problem, developed a solution, and rigorously tested it. Within a few years, they had demonstrated that New Yorkers too poor to afford bail but with strong ties to their communities could be released and still show up for trial. Evidence of a viable alternative to bail forever changed how judges make release decisions in criminal courts around the world, while also reducing costs and minimizing disruption in the lives of innocents. It also led to the founding of the Vera Institute of Justice—named for Schweitzer's mother—to pursue similar initiatives. Today, Vera staff are leading more than two dozen separate projects that aim to reveal more about the meaning of justice even as they make a difference in the lives of individuals. Every Vera project begins with an examination of how a targeted part of the justice system really works. Often, this inspires the design of a practical experiment or the development of a rational course for reform. Whatever path a project takes, Vera's goal is to help government partners achieve measurable improvements in the quality of justice they deliver and to share what they've learned with people around the world. The result: Justice systems that are fairer, more humane, and more effective for everyone.