Criminalization & Racial Disparities

Overcriminalization drives vast racial disparities in our criminal legal system

Throughout its history, the United States has criminalized low-level behavior, often in racist ways. Our criminal legal system was set up to enforce slavery and has been used ever since to overpolice and over-arrest people of color, especially Black people.

More than 80% of all arrests are for low-level, nonviolent offenses and conduct related to poverty

This has resulted in vast racial disparities in arrests, sentencing, and more:

  • Our jails and prisons are filled with people who have been targeted by overpolicing for conduct related to homelessness, substance use, and mental health.
  • Too many people of color have been killed at the hands of the police.
  • Many people who can’t pay court fines and fees or bail for minor violations face license suspensions and jail time, essentially criminalizing poverty.
  • Prosecutors perpetuate an unjust system that imprisons more people than anywhere in the world.

Black men comprise about 13% of the population, but 35% of the incarcerated

Vera is fighting to end overcriminalization and racial profiling

We work with experts, advocates, and policymakers to research, test, and implement new practices that end this unjust system, from working directly with prosecutors to increase accountability and decrease racial disparities to helping pass bail reform that closes mass incarceration’s front door. Together, we can create a new paradigm for public safety and racial justice.

Learn more about Vera's work to end overcriminalization and reduce racial disparities: