It costs almost $42,000 to house someone in a supportive housing program in New York City for one year. These programs combine affordable housing with individualized services that help people who struggle with untreated or complex behavioral health needs that can lead to incarceration. In contrast, New York City spends an appalling $556,539 a year to jail a single person, including on Rikers Island, its hellish jail complex where those inside lack access to functional toilets and sleep packed together on floors filthy with sewage.

In 2022, Vera has worked hard to uplift and increase investment in solutions that can provide true public safety while decreasing the harms of institutions like Rikers, which are all too common in our current criminal legal and immigration systems.

Safe communities are communities with resources. Solutions that prevent crime by meeting people’s basic needs are far better for society than jails and prisons that create more harm. Yet, in the minds of far too many who hold the power to allocate resources, the words “public safety” conjure images of armed police and prisons.

Drivers of many crimes include economic instability, mental illness, and substance use. Mass criminalization and incarceration of poor people, people of color, and people with health care needs exacerbates these problems, making society less safe. Investments in education, health care, and housing are true investments in public safety.

Drawing on more than 60 years of experience and unparalleled expertise in reform, Vera is fighting for solutions that can foster true safety and justice for all. This year’s efforts include:

  • helping prosecutors pursue justice, not jails, through innovative diversion programs that provide opportunity for growth, rather than punishment;
  • ensuring that incarcerated people can access high-quality college education, greatly reducing the chances that they will return to prison;
  • fighting for a public defender-style system for people in immigration court, to help keep families together and prevent the destabilization that occurs when community members are unjustly deported.