Vera's work in New Orleans began in 2006, when the City Council invited us to assess the criminal justice system and propose reforms as part of post-Katrina recovery efforts. Since then, we have become a nexus for advancing evidence-based reform and have demonstrated that change is not only possible but within reach. In partnership with people leading and working in the local justice system, city leaders, and community organizations, we are working to end unnecessary detention and develop innovative, collaborative projects that improve the delivery of justice in New Orleans.

Related Work

Past Due

Examining the Costs and Consequences of Charging for Justice in New Orleans

In 2015, government agencies in New Orleans collected $4.5 million in the form of bail, fines and fees from people involved in the criminal justice system and, by extension, from their families. Another $4.7 million was transferred from the pockets of residents to for-profit bail bond agents. These costs have become the subject of considerable publ ...

  • Mathilde Laisne, Jon Wool, Christian Henrichson
January 09, 2017

New Orleans: Who's in Jail and Why?

Quarterly data analysis of incarceration in NewOrleans

Until recently, New Orleans was the longtime nationwide leader in urban jail incarceration rate, which today remains at nearly double the national average. Although the population of the city’s jail has been declining since 2009, there is still much room for improvement, including addressing the considerable and persistent racial disparities in arr ...

  • Rose Wilson, Theresa McKinney, Mathilde Laisne, Corinna Yazbek, Jonathan Varnado
August 03, 2016

Bail, Fines, and Fees

A look at how bail, fines, and fees in the criminal justice system impact poor communities in New Orleans

The New Orleans criminal justice system, like many other local systems across the country, operates significantly on funding generated from the people cycling through it—from bail and associated fees before trial, to fines and fees levied after conviction. These practices come with hidden costs to defendants—the majority of whom are poor and black— ...

July 25, 2016

In New Orleans, the housing authority is helping people with criminal convictions rejoin families

Think about a particularly trying time in your life. Now think about not having a place to stay or family to support you during this time of hardship. Would you have made it?  For people recently convicted of a crime, having a place to stay and the support of family are often the most influential factors in their success. But for decades, housi ...

Blog Post
  • Mathilde  Laisne
    Mathilde Laisne
March 30, 2016
Blog Post

Justice in Katrina's Wake

Changing Course on Incarceration in New Orleans

In 2005, New Orleans detained more people in its local jail per capita than any other urban jurisdiction in the country. The jail—designed to hold people too great a risk to be released pretrial—was actually used to detain thousands of people too poor to pay a financial bond, with dramatic human and financial consequences. In the 10 years since Hur ...

  • Judge Calvin Johnson (Retired), Mathilde Laisne, Jon Wool
November 04, 2015

Detention of Alleged Probation and Parole Violators in Orleans Parish Prison

Close to one in five people detained in the New Orleans jail are waiting for a court date (also known as adjudication) to resolve alleged probation or parole violations. This detention affects nearly 2,000 people a year and heavily inflates the local jail population. In this report, Vera conducted a thorough analysis of all probation and parole vio ...

  • Mathilde Laisne, Stephen Roberts, Jon Wool
October 02, 2015