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Just 'Cause is the quarterly newsletter of the Vera Institute of Justice and is produced by the Communications Department.

This issue includes the following articles:

  • "Cheaper Isn't Necessarily Better When it Comes to Prisons," by Alice Chasan
  • "DOJ Releases National Standards to End Prison Rape," by Patricia Connelly
  • From Vera's Director: "Dollars and Sense," by Michael Jacobson
  • "Getting Help to Domestic Violence Victims in the LGBTQ Community," by Elias Isquith
  • Q&A with Whitney Tymas, director of the Prosecution and Racial Justice Program, interview by Alice Chasan
  • Vera Alumnus Profile: "Khalil Muhammad: Looking Back, Envisioning a Better Future," by Elias Isquith
  • News & Events; Seventh Annual Benefit: Investing in Justice

Jim Parsons, director of Vera’s Substance Use and Mental Health Program (SUMH), talks with Richard G. Dudley, Jr., a Vera trustee and psychiatrist with extensive background in forensic psychiatry and community mental health, about how the findings of SUMH’s study can help to address the challenges of identifying mental health needs in criminal justice settings and sharing data across relevant agencies.


Michael Jacobson, president and director of the Vera Institute of Justice, reported on Vera’s evidence-based research into the effectiveness and efficiency of existing corrections policies. He described findings from a number of studies, the use of cost-benefit analysis as a tool for assessing and reforming policy, and results of Vera-designed initiatives to foster alternatives to incarceration.


Join Jonathan Ball, director of the Utah Office of the Legislative Fiscal Analyst, and Mike Clark, chief economist at the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission, as they discuss the differences between cost-benefit analysis and fiscal impact analysis, questions that fiscal personnel should ask when reviewing cost-benefit studies, and steps fiscal offices should take if they add CBA to their workload. This presentation is intended for executive and legislative fiscal and budget staff, as well as others who wish to use CBA to inform decisions about budgets and policy priorities.


In the summer of 2012, the National Criminal Justice Association (NCJA) and the Vera Institute of Justice conducted an informal nationwide online survey of 714 state and local criminal justice stakeholder organizations. The questionnaire’s purpose was to gather information from a wide range of jurisdictions about the impact of budget cuts, both already enacted, and anticipated cuts that would result from sequestration. This document is a summary of self-reported responses.


Researchers from Vera’s Substance Use and Mental Health Program created an unprecedented dataset including records from four Washington, DC criminal justice agencies and the Department of Mental Health to study the mental health needs of people arrested in the District of Columbia in June 2008. The resulting report provides information to improve the identification of mental health needs for this population, improve the delivery of mental health services, support the design of new policies and programs, and establish a baseline against which to measure the effectiveness of new initiatives.


Vera Institute of Justice Director Michael Jacobson submitted written testimony to the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights on the occasion of its first-ever hearing on solitary confinement, in which he describes the work of Vera’s Segregation Reduction Project (SRP). Launched in 2010, SRP is the first initiative of its kind to work with state prison systems to reduce safely the number of prisoners held in segregation and to improve the conditions of solitary confinement for those who remain.


Professor Robert J. Sampson of Harvard University talks with Vera Director Michael Jacobson about his long-term study of inequality in Chicago neighborhoods. Sampson explains the concept of “collective efficacy,” which he coined to describe the catalytic effect of group responses to neighborhood problems. He argues that crime rates are higher and cooperation with law enforcement lower in neighborhoods where collective efficacy is low or nonexistent. This podcast is part of the Neil A. Weiner Research Speaker Series. Professor Sampson, Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences and Director of the Social Sciences Program at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, is author most recently of Great American City: Chicago and the Enduring Neighborhood Effect (University of Chicago Press, 2012).


Vera’s Prosecution and Racial Justice Program (PRJ) conducted a review of 34 empirical studies on the relationship of race and ethnicity to prosecutorial decision making published between 1990 and 2011 in peer-reviewed journals. The literature review distills the research and provides a reference resource for a diverse audience—including academics, practitioners, and interested generalists—about the current state of the debate on these subjects. The aim of the literature review is to encourage additional empirical research on the relationship between race and prosecution by identifying areas that need further study; provide prosecutors and other criminal justice practitioners with a frame of reference in which to assess their own practices; and strengthen the general public’s understanding of the criminal justice system.


Professor Daniel Nagin of Carnegie Mellon University talks with Vera Director Michael Jacobson about whether we can reduce both crime and incarceration through shifted corrections policies and effective policing. Nagin cautions that public policy must always strike the appropriate balance between two chief concerns: maintaining public safety and preserving civil liberties. This podcast is part of the 2011-12 Neil A. Weiner Research Speaker Series.