Reshaping Prosecution Initiative

Reshaping Prosecution: Reform from the ground up

Prosecutors are the most powerful decision-makers in our criminal legal system. They have a critical—but hidden—role in reducing mass incarceration.

For decades, prosecutors have used their power to perpetuate a system that imprisons far too many, especially Black and brown people, without making communities safer. Vera’s Reshaping Prosecution initiative helps prosecutors support safer communities by shrinking the size of the criminal legal system, addressing systemic racial disparities, and increasing accountability to communities.

On-the-ground work with prosecutors

Vera’s team of experts works directly with prosecutors to transform campaign platforms into data-informed policies and practices that better pursue safety by working to end mass incarceration and reduce racial disparities. Right now, Vera’s Reshaping Prosecution team is working with prosecutors in St. Louis, Missouri; Boulder County, Colorado; DeKalb County, Georgia; Suffolk County, Massachusetts; Fairfax County, Virginia; and Ingham County, Michigan, among others.

Vera’s Reshaping Prosecution team works with local prosecutors’ offices in two primary ways: site partnerships and its Motion for Justice campaign.

In site partnerships, Vera works with offices for 12 to 18 months, following a process of research, community engagement, recommendations, and analysis to help these key actors reshape their efforts toward community safety:

  1. First, the team gathers and analyzes data to identify what decisions the office makes and listens to local communities most impacted by the criminal legal system to assess community-specific needs.
  2. Then, we develop policy recommendations designed to improve safety by reducing the number of people entering the system, promoting racial equity, and increasing transparency with the community.
  3. Next, we implement the recommendations through training and workshops with staff.
  4. Finally, we help offices measure the effectiveness of the policy and share that information publicly so that the community can track the office’s progress.

In addition to our site-specific work, Vera launched Motion for Justice, through which Vera works with prosecutor’s offices and community-based organizations to create diversion programs that center racial equity and reduce mass incarceration. Prosecutors and community organizations join annually as part of a cohort. Resources are available for community members, organizations, and prosecutor’s offices to use without applying. Visit Motion for Justice to learn more:

Motion for Justice

Learn more about Vera’s campaign to center racial equity in prosecution reform

Explore the site

While Vera’s policy recommendations are targeted based on community needs, we recommend prosecutors adopt a series of policies to reduce racial disparities and help end mass incarceration, including:

This collaboration with prosecutors—using these data-informed policies and engaging impacted communities—makes communities safer. Vera uses our expertise and research to help prosecutors looking to reshape their offices, increase public safety, and reduce racial disparities, all while remaining focused on community and local needs.

Contact us
Akhi Johnson Director, Reshaping Prosecution Initiative

Research solutions to reshape prosecution

Vera also works on research projects to help prosecutors reorient their work around racial equity and public safety. In response to COVID-19, the Vera team has worked with partners to create policy recommendations on the intersection of public health and community safety. We also provide some local jurisdictions with lists of people in their local jail that should be considered for release.

Additionally, Vera launched the Black Women Lead program to support lead prosecutors of color who are under attack from local adversaries, the media, and constituents as a backlash to their reform agendas. The group was created by former Vera Institute of Justice Reshaping Prosecution Director Jami Hodge, with the support of Whitney Tymas, currently the president and treasurer of Justice and Safety PAC.

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Feb 14, 2022