Vera’s experts conduct research and analysis and develop policies and programs in a variety of criminal and social justice fields. Their varied knowledge, background, and experience enable Vera to address the full spectrum of national and local justice issues.
As vice president and research director, Jim Parsons is responsible for shaping Vera’s research agenda and working closely with practitioners, government officials, and partner institutions to implement research findings. Jim joined Vera in March 2003. He previously served as both the director of the Substance Use and Mental Health Program and research director of the International Program. His work has included studies measuring the overlap of mental illness and incarceration in New York City and Washington, DC; the provision of jail-to-community reentry services in New York City and Los Angeles; an evaluation of the implementation and impacts of drug law reforms in New York City; and an ongoing study of the challenges that people with serious mental health disorders face accessing effective legal defense representation. Jim also directed Justice and Health Connect, a federally funded initiative to improve information sharing as a tool for coordination between justice and health systems. His international work includes a number of projects to develop and implement empirical rule of law indicators for the UK Department for International Development and United Nations Department for Peacekeeping Operations, and the American Bar Association. This work has included data collection in Chile, Haiti, India, Liberia, Nigeria and South Sudan. For the past ten years, he has consulted on justice reform projects in China. Prior to joining Vera, Jim worked at the Center for Research on Drugs and Health Behavior and the Institute for Criminal Policy Research in London where he conducted community studies of HIV prevalence among injecting drug users and evaluated needle exchange programs and prison reentry services. Jim has an MSc in social research methods from the University of Surrey.