When Lili Lynton began working with education nonprofits in the late 1990s, she noticed a particular phenomenon that made a lasting impression: there were always quiet conversations in school communities about those who were not there—fathers, brothers, uncles, and sons who were incarcerated.

“No one would talk about it publicly,” she recalls. “The stigma of incarceration was so pernicious.” But it was clear that entire school communities were impacted, that the cohesion knitting families together in more privileged schools was often missing. It was a moment of real clarity for Lynton, a veteran philanthropist, investor, and entrepreneur. “The idea that the system was purposely unjust hadn’t occurred to me. But it was.”

Lynton has made a major multiyear philanthropic commitment to Vera and is a member of Vera’s Reform Leadership Council, a diverse group of social justice leaders, philanthropists, and experts from civil society who serve as advisors to and ambassadors for our work. Her commitment to Vera stems from her understanding of just how difficult the problem of mass incarceration is to unwind. “Injustice permeates the whole system, and it’s such a large and complex system.”

Lynton’s success in business informs her views on justice reform as a large, systemic problem: “I believe in distributing money where the problem gets solved. Vera does a great job at analyzing all dimensions and deciding where change is possible and most impactful.” She is the co-founder of The Dinex Group, which operates 17 Daniel Boulud-branded restaurants. Prior to forming Dinex, she co-founded digital banking pioneer Telebank and formerly served as an investment analyst at Sanford Bernstein and Lehman Brothers.

“Vera is important for the way it looks at incarceration holistically,” says Lynton. “It informs public opinion and works closely with elected officials and people working within the system. You have to work deeply enough in the system to inspire a culture change in both places or you end up with more conflict and little ability to implement real change.”

Lynton is particularly involved in supporting Restoring Promise, Vera’s initiative working directly with residents and corrections officers to transform the culture, climate, rhythms, and routines that define life in prison—starting with young adults. “In many ways, it’s restoring the future for these young people, restoring the opportunities that are available to them, their families, and their communities. The scale of this project also has tremendous appeal. As Vera establishes dozens of units in five different states, the impact is impossible to ignore. People inside the system begin to reimagine how their institutions and cultures can change.”

Through the Reform Leadership Council, Lynton is encouraging others to support Vera’s work. At Vera, she says, “everything arcs toward justice, nothing gets lost in the noise.”