Lessons from Abroad
For decades as the U.S. prisoner population swelled, officials here eschewed comparisons with their counterparts in Europe. That’s no longer true. Curiosity and genuine openness to new ideas are spreading.
Two delegations of corrections administrators and lawmakers joined us to visit prisons in Europe, with the second trip featured on 60 Minutes. What they saw firsthand—the focus on rehabilitation over retribution and an underlying commitment to human dignity—is finding a foothold in the facilities they oversee. The visits are part of a larger effort to promote cross-cultural learning in an area of social policy where America hasn’t been on the leading edge.
Sentencing and Prison Practices in Germany and the Netherlands
Implications for the United States
The U.S. prison population has increased 700 percent in the last 40 years, and state corrections expenditures reached $53.5 billion in 2012. Despite this massive investment in incarceration, the national recidivism rate remains at a stubborn 40 percent—meaning that four in 10 incarcerated people will return to prison within three years of release. ...
Crime and Punishment
New op-ed co-authored by Vera President Nick Turner
It sounds like the first line of a joke: "Three state corrections teams and some experts who are old hands at visiting prisons go to meet their warden counterparts in Germany and the Netherlands in mid-January to see what they could learn." But it's a true story—and what high-level delegations from Colorado, Georgia, and Pennsylvania learned throu...
A Direction Home
In Recognition of National Reentry Week
Observations from Rikers: A German’s first visit to the island
This blog post reflects the author's own opinion and is not an official statement.
Dispatches from Germany
A breath of fresh air
The author, front left, walks through JVA Heidering prison in Berlin with facility Governor Anke Stein.
What we hope to learn from European prisons
The statistics by now are numbingly familiar. A quarter of the world’s population behind bars is in the United States—though we comprise but five percent of the world’s population. There is a broad boundary-busting movement to change this reality—it’s bipartisan, it involves people both inside and outside the criminal justice system, and it is head...
Lessons from Other Nations
The U.S. has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world—693 per 100,000 residents. Yet, despite our reliance on incarceration to combat crime, an estimated 40 percent of people released from prison are rearrested within three years. In contrast, European nations rely more heavily on non-custodial penalties for nonviolent crimes, includ...
The United Nations Rule of Law Indicators
Implementation Guide and Project Tools
This document is a joint publication of the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The United Nations Rule of Law Indicators were endorsed, through the Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group, by the Department of Political Affairs and the Offi...
Developing Indicators to Measure the Rule of Law
A Global Approach
In recent years, performance indicators have emerged as a promising tool for tracking progress in key areas of governance, including the rule of law. With support from the American Bar Association’s World Justice Project, the Vera Institute of Justice partnered with three fellow Altus Global Alliance members to develop a set of 60 rule of law indic...
A Short History of Vera’s Work on Policing
For nearly forty years, Vera has helped police departments, nonprofit organizations, and governments around the world develop and test innovations that reduce crime and promote efficient policing while minimizing intrusions on people’s liberty. This work emphasizes accountability as the most important tool for improving police services. Accountabil...
The Public Accountability of Private Police
Lessons from New York, Johannesburg, and Mexico City
This paper looks at how private police are actually held accountable through a set of three case studies drawn from different countries. The literature on private policing is remarkably uninformed by empirical data, although a few works have investigated the scope of private policing through interviews with people working in the industry. It is our...
Democratic Policing Exchange, Spring/Summer 2000
Democratic Policing Exchange, a semi-annual newsletter on public safety and police accountability, is produced by the Vera Institute of Justice for the Ford Foundation. Contents: 1. Center for Constitutional Rights pushes for changes in policing by Jill Pope; 2. NGOs use police reform to curb violence against women by Sarah Dadush; 3. Helping c...
The Use of Citizen Surveys as a Tool for Police Reform
Citizen surveys, long used by researchers to test hypotheses about police-citizen interactions, have recently be deployed as a tool for promoting police reform. This paper examines the citizen survey's potential role in creating more accountable and effective police forces, drawing on examples from Chicago, Illinois; Queens, New York; and St. Peter...
A Framework for Action
Democratic policing; Police reform; International policing