We envision a society that respects the dignity of every person and safeguards justice for everyone.

Message from the President

Welcome.  You’re here, reading this message, so I know you care about justice. I know you expect that the American justice system will live up to its responsibility to keep us safe while treating us—all of us—fairly, constructively. You’re also here because you know that, too frequently, we don’t live up to these ideals.

We believe all of this at Vera. That’s why we do the work we do. I’m pleased to be walking this road, which can be a very bumpy one, with you.   

Many Americans—from across the political and ideological spectrum—recognize reform of criminal justice  as one of the most pressing issues of our day. As our mission declares, we exist to drive that change. We see the need for change in a country disfigured by mass incarceration. Where relations between police and the people they serve has reached a perilous and dangerous point that can leave us more despairing than hopeful. We see it in the burdens and barriers imposed on the poor, people of color and immigrants. And, even with its expansive reach, we know that this system too often does not adequately serve people who are victims.

These challenges are enormous. Daunting. But, our experience shows us that change is possible, and we remain optimistic.

Our Strategic Priorities

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Optimism, and the belief that government—when in the hands of true leaders, informed by data and instilled with a spirit of innovation—can transform the administration of justice lies at the very root of Vera’s founding, as it has been for 55 years. We occupy a special, inside lane to help public sector leaders change the systems they run: visionary correctional leaders who seek to bring post-secondary education to students who are locked up; judges seeking ways to have people return to court without money as the determining factor; and police chiefs committed to demonstrating and owning a respectful relationship with the communities they serve. 

Today, with massively increased attention to our issues and new tools, we’ve entered a new era—and in true Vera fashion, we’re finding innovative ways to drive impact. We unearth insights from big data—check out the Incarceration Trends Project for what that looks like.  We use competitions—“races to the top,” to borrow a phrase—to engage the most motivated and ready partners. That’s what you see with our recent work to reduce solitary confinement, expand access to college in prison, and keep kids out of the justice system. And we’re also increasingly engaging in public debate to help shine a light on why reforming our justice system is an issue all Americans should be concerned about. We’re asking big questions and suggesting big answers. Should we reimagine the purpose of prison?  Can we learn from our peers, from whom we’ve believed ourselves to be exceptional? In both cases, yes.

Right now, out of the many issues we work on, Vera is pursuing core priorities of closing incarceration’s front door through local jail reform, transforming the conditions of those spending time behind bars—both the incarcerated and those who work with them—and ensuring that our justice systems are effectively serving all Americans, especially as our country becomes majority-minority. This last priority is especially important. At a time when police and community relations are so frayed, and feel to many to be beyond repair, we are doubling down on our commitment to support democratic, respectful policing that ensures the safety and security of all.

To do our work, we count on two things. A great and motivated staff, and the support of friends and funders who believe in our work, who believe in us. These funders include government at all levels—from major support of the U.S. Department of Justice to local support in cities around the country—as well as a large number of foundations, and individual donors. What we all have in common: Belief that we can and must take action to improve the delivery of justice in our county. That change may be difficult. The road is neither easy nor short. But change is possible. And that every person touched by our justice system deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.

Thank you.