Court Systems

Topics: Court Systems

Race and Prosecution in Manhattan
07/08/2014
In order to ensure the integrity of the justice system, it is essential that case outcomes do not disproportionately affect members of certain racial and ethnic groups—and that any disparities be identified so solutions can be developed. To that end, Vera partnered with the District Attorney of New...
The Guardian Reporter, June 2014
07/02/2014
In this issue of The Guardian Reporter, the newsletter of Vera's Guardianship Project: Hear from our former project director Laura Negrón as she reflects on her tenure at the project, and from our interim director Olga Perez discussing what lies ahead. Find out how the project's unique,...
From Courts to Communities: The Right Response to Truancy, Running Away, and Other Status Offenses
12/09/2013
Young people who run away from home, skip school, or engage in other risky behaviors that are only prohibited because of their age end up in courtrooms every year by the thousands. Responding to these cases, called “status offenses,” in the juvenile justice system can lead to punitive outcomes that...
The Guardian Reporter, June 2013
06/21/2013
In this issue of The Guardian Reporter, a newsletter produced by Vera’s Guardianship Project:A young person with a disability socializes and learns basic life skills with the help of The Guardianship Project’s expertise in maximizing clients’ independence within community settings...
The Anatomy of Discretion: An Analysis of Prosecutorial Decision Making
12/17/2012
Prosecuting attorneys enjoy exceptionally broad discretion in making decisions that influence criminal case outcomes. They make pivotal decisions throughout the life of a case with little public or judicial scrutiny. With support from the National Institute of Justice, the Vera Institute of Justice...

Projects

Child Welfare Case Processing in New York City Family Courts

The Vera Institute of Justice is partnering with the New York City Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), the New York State Office of Court Administration (OCA), the New York City Family Court, and Casey Family Programs to conduct an operational review of the abuse and neglect case process flow in the Queens and Bronx family courts. Vera is combining data analyses and findings from interviews and observations to describe how the abuse and neglect cases are processed, identify causes of delay, and develop specific actions that the court and agencies can take to accelerate permanent living arrangements for children.

Developing Tools to Support NYC's Close to Home Initiative

In April 2012, New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) contracted with Vera’s Center on Youth Justice (CYJ) to create tools to assist implementation of the state’s new Close to Home Initiative. CYJ will develop a risk-classification tool and an intake-matching form that will guide the placement of youth found guilty of a juvenile delinquency charge in local, privately run facilities

Examining Criminal Justice Responses to and Help-Seeking Patterns of Sexual Violence Survivors with Disabilities

Sexual assault against people with disabilities is a critical and neglected issue. Although empirical evidence is extremely limited, several studies based on population or convenience samples of sexual assault among people with disabilities report lifetime rates as high as 53 percent. However, few studies have examined criminal justice responses to and help-seeking patterns of diverse sexual assault survivors with disabilities (for example, gender, age, race and ethnicity, and disability type) using rigorous research methods and methods designed for this population. To address this gap, Vera’s Center on Victimization and Safety will conduct a National Institute of Justice-funded study in partnership with a large district attorney’s office and a community-based, non-residential program providing services to people with disabilities, with support from a local rape crisis center.

Expanding Data Capacity to Study NYC's "Close to Home" Initiative and other Juvenile Justice Practices

In an effort to better monitor the services and programs provided to youth after a court’s disposition (sentence), the New York City Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) contracted with Vera’s Center on Youth Justice to expand the capacity of the city’s Juvenile Justice Database (JJDB), a resource designed and managed by Vera that draws on data from multiple agencies to track cases from arrest through disposition.

Impact Evaluation of the Adolescent Behavioral Learning Experience Program at Rikers Island

In 2012, the New York City Mayor’s Office launched the nation’s first social impact bond—an innovative return-for-success initiative in which private funding is used to finance public services—to fund the Adolescent Behavioral Learning Experience (ABLE) program, which provides Moral Reconation Therapy (MRT) services to adolescents at Rikers Island. Under this model, the funder—the global investment banking, securities, and investment management firm Goldman Sachs—will receive a return on its investment if the number of recidivism bed days—the number of days that people are held in jail custody following their initial release—are reduced by at least 10 percent.

Justice Reinvestment Initiative

Justice reinvestment is a data-driven approach to corrections policy that seeks to cut spending and reinvest savings in practices that have been empirically shown to improve safety and hold offenders accountable. As part of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, Vera provides technical assistance to states seeking to apply the approach to their local prison and supervision systems.

Legal Orientation Program

The Legal Orientation Program (LOP) was created to inform immigrant detainees about their rights, immigration court, and the detention process. On behalf of the federal government’s Executive Office of Immigration Review, program staff work with nonprofit legal service agencies to provide the program at 25 detention facilities across the country.

Legal Reform in China

Vera works collaboratively with reformers in China to facilitate justice innovations and policy changes that are rooted in experience, guided by empirical methods, and consistent with international human rights standards. Vera’s work in China, supported by the Ford Foundation, builds on the knowledge and drive of local universities and government partners.

New Orleans Office

In New Orleans, Vera is working with the mayor, city council, local criminal justice agencies, judiciary, civic, and community organizations, and foundation partners to address long-standing problems in the city’s criminal justice system. These stakeholders are working together as the Criminal Justice Leadership Alliance (CJLA), an unprecedented coalition focused on resolving systemic justice challenges.

New Orleans Pretrial Services

Vera’s New Orleans Office is collaborating with government, community, and civic organizations to develop and operate the city’s first comprehensive pretrial services system. The demonstration project, launched with funding from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and now funded by the City of New Orleans, is integrating good practices into the criminal justice system, with the goal of yielding greater public safety and fairness.

New York Immigrant Family Unity Project

The New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP) is the first public defender program in the country for immigrants facing deportation. NYIFUP aims to provide indigent immigrants facing deportation at New York’s Varick Street Immigration Court with free, high-quality legal representation. With funding from the New York City Council, Vera is administering the one-year pilot with the aim of improving indigent immigrants’ access to justice and keeping them with their families and in their communities.

Prosecutorial Discretion

Vera’s work in the area of prosecutorial discretion helps prosecutors collect and analyze data at critical discretion points in the prosecutorial process, such as initial case screening, charging, and plea offers. Following data collection and an initial analysis, Prosecution and Racial Justice Program (PRJ) staff and prosecutors work together to identify other factors that may be driving case outcomes. PRJ staff then assists prosecutors to create reports of data findings, integrate these findings into management processes, and devise policies that reduce the risk of biased decision making.

Status Offense Reform Center

Vera’s Center on Youth Justice launched the online Status Offense Reform Center to help jurisdictions rethink and reform their approach to working with youth charged with status offenses. Disobedient but not delinquent, these young people have engaged in behaviors that are prohibited under law only because of their age, such as skipping school, running away, or violating curfew, raising the concern of the adults in their lives. A member of the MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change Resource Center Partnership, the center serves as a one-stop shop of information and practical guidance for policymakers and practitioners interested in preventing youth who engage in problematic but noncriminal behavior, such as truancy or running away, from entering the juvenile justice system and providing them with services and supports in the community better suited to meet their needs.

The Guardianship Project

The Guardianship Project provides guardianship services for older adults and people with disabilities in New York City who have been determined by a judge to be unable to care for themselves. Project staff include lawyers, social workers, and bookkeepers, who oversee an array of services—including health care, home care, and money management—and help clients to remain independent and engaged in their communities. Our services currently save the state more than $2.5 million annually in Medicaid costs, and as it grows those savings will increase significantly.

UN Rule of Law Indicators Project

Through the United Nations Rule of Law Indicators Project, Vera seeks to advance the rule of law by providing national authorities, the United Nations, and donor countries with a practical way to identify the strengths of, and challenges to, their nation’s law enforcement agencies, judicial system, and correctional system. The project focuses on developing indicators—statistical references that present an overview of change in a given system—for criminal justice institutions, but does not strive to rank countries.

Unaccompanied Children Program

The Unaccompanied Children Program coordinates a national effort to increase pro bono legal representation for immigrant children in removal (deportation) proceedings without a parent or legal guardian. These children may be fleeing poverty, war, or other dangerous circumstances on their own, or they may have lost contact with an adult along the way. They are detained in federal custody in shelters or detention centers contracted by the Division of Children’s Services (DCS, formerly DUCS), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).

12/13/2013
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Every year, thousands of young people end up in courtrooms because they ran away from home, skipped school, or engaged in other risky behaviors that are not criminal in nature and only prohibited because of their ages. Responding to these cases,...
12/04/2013
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Momentum continues to build nationally for ways to limit the reach of the juvenile justice system, relying less on court interventions and incarceration and more on safe and effective community-based options. This momentum makes the experience of...
11/18/2013
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Vital federal funding that supports a variety of crime-prevention strategies, treatment programs, and innovative initiatives in our communities has decreased by 43 percent since 2010, according to a recent survey conducted by the Vera Institute of...
Jon Wool
Director, Vera New Orleans Office
Olga Perez
Interim Director, The Guardianship Project

About this Topic

In collaboration with judges, prosecutors, defenders, and administrators, Vera works to make court systems fairer and more efficient.

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