Vera Expands Its California Office and Focus, Names Stacey Strongarone as Director

With the aim of supporting justice reform in California, the Vera Institute of Justice (Vera) today announced the expansion of its California office.

“We’ve reached a tipping point where Americans can no longer turn a blind eye to the injustices plaguing our nation, particularly those against people of color and other vulnerable populations. Amidst this unprecedented attention to justice issues, California is distinguishing itself as a leader in ending the era of mass incarceration and addressing attacks on immigrant families,” Vera President Nick Turner said. “There’s more to do to make sure progressive policies yield desired results and deliver on promises of equal justice under the law. And we intend to do our part, bringing capacity in research, technical assistance, and strategic communications.”

Vera’s decision to grow its California focus and team followed a six-month research and planning process led by former Ford Foundation director Vik Malhotra and Vera’s Executive Vice President Kevin Keenan. Extensive interviews with stakeholders in government, advocacy, community, academia, and philanthropy found that Vera’s unique assets of independent, rigorous, community-informed research and values-forward technical assistance to government partners would be a welcome addition to reform efforts in the state.

Vera has worked in California since as early as 2001, and staffed an office in Los Angeles since 2009. This year, Vera relocated to a larger, more centrally-located office in downtown Los Angeles to accommodate a growing team that includes staff working on immigration, juvenile justice, reentry, conditions of confinement, policing, communications, and more.

In 2018, Vera initiated or expanded several projects in California:

  • Expanding access to public housing for formerly incarcerated people in San Diego County through Vera’s Opening Doors to Public Housing Initiative.
  • Providing legal representation to immigrants facing deportation in order to keep immigrant families together and communities safe through Vera’s SAFE Network, which includes Oakland, Alameda County, Sacramento, and Santa Ana.
  • Helping the recently elected District Attorney in Contra Costa County to identify and implement policies that will reduce incarceration, address racial disparities, and encourage transparency, and that are accountable to the local community, through Vera’s Reshaping Prosecution project.
  • Helping Santa Clara County to end the incarceration of girls, especially girls of color, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and gender nonconforming (LGB/TGNC) youth on the female side of the justice system as part of Vera’s national Ending Girls Incarceration Initiative.

To lead this effort, Vera has appointed Stacey Strongarone as Director of the California office. Strongarone most recently served as the Deputy Director of Vera’s Center on Immigration and Justice, where she led national efforts to increase access to legal representation for people in immigration detention. She has worked in Vera’s Los Angeles office since 2011, has served on the Liberty Hill Foundation’s Community Funding Board and Change L.A. host committee, and began her career working on immigrant rights and juvenile justice in San Francisco. She has a law degree from NYU and a coaching certification from Coaching for Transformation.

“I am thrilled to usher Vera’s California office through this next phase of development,” Strongarone said. “I am eager to strengthen Vera’s partnerships with reform-minded government officials throughout the state, and to support the efforts of coalitions fighting to end racial disparities and promote human dignity in the criminal justice and immigration systems.”

Vera will mark the launch of their new office with three upcoming events:

  • Big Data and Justice Reform: Opportunities and Threats, a public discussion co-hosted by Stanford University on February 5, at 5:00 p.m., with NPR’s Laura Sydell, Stanford’s Sharad Goel, Google.org’s Justin Steele, and Vera’s Jim Parsons;
  • An office-launch party in Los Angeles planned for Thursday, February 7, at 4:00 p.m. (by invitation); and
  • A public conversation and the announcement of the Best Of Justice Reform honorees, part of the release of this year’s State Of Justice Reform, in Los Angeles, on February 21, at 7:00 pm. (details forthcoming).