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

Our Mission

To end the overcriminalization and mass incarceration of people of color, immigrants, and people experiencing poverty.

Our Vision

Safe, healthy, empowered communities and a fair, accountable justice system.

Who We Are

Vera is powered by hundreds of advocates, researchers, and activists working to transform the criminal legal and immigration systems until they’re fair for all. Founded in 1961 to advocate for alternatives to money bail in New York City, Vera is now a national organization that partners with impacted communities and government leaders for change. We develop just, antiracist solutions so that money doesn’t determine freedom; fewer people are in jails, prisons, and immigration detention; and everyone in the system is treated with dignity.

Learn About Our Priorities

In its scale and brutality, the American justice system is a global aberration.

The United States has

5%
of world's population
25%
of world's incarcerated
The United States incarcerates more people than any other country in the world.

People of color make up

30%
of U.S. population
60%
of U.S. prison population
People of color are incarcerated at an unmistakably higher rate than white people.

Where We Work

Working with government and civil leaders to improve justice systems, Vera's projects are active in more than 40 states.

Our History

In 1961, philanthropist Louis Schweitzer and magazine editor Herb Sturz recognized the injustice of a bail system in New York City that locked people up simply for being poor. Working with criminal justice leaders, they explored the problem from many angles, setting their sights on developing a practical, innovative solution to NYC’s overreliance on cash bail. 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. The experiment—dubbed the Manhattan Bail Project—resulted in dozens of similar projects in cities around the country, and in landmark legislative reform of the federal bail system. It also led to the founding of the Vera Institute of Justice—named for Schweitzer's inspiring mother—to pursue similar initiatives. Today, Vera is working on more than five dozen projects that aim to unravel the impediments to human dignity and justice, while changing the lives of individuals. More than half a century after the Manhattan Bail Project, Vera embraces new tools—like the power of mining big data to unearth injustice, the potential of competitions to seek out the most motivated leaders, and the importance of communications to engage with our ideas. These are all part of an approach that has remained remarkably consistent, characterized by a disciplined focus on specific problems, partnering with public sector leaders willing to work with us to seek change, and a reliance on rigorous research every step of the way. Underlying this unique approach is an abiding optimism that even the most troubled systems can transform. The result: justice systems that ensure fairness, promote safety, and strengthen communities.

Louis Schweitzer Louis Schweitzer
Herbert Sturz Herbert Sturz