Reducing Jail and Prison Population

Together, we can end mass incarceration

Today, approximately two million people sit in jail and prison cells. Some are awaiting trial. Some are serving sentences. And some will never see their homes or families again. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Many people are incarcerated for reasons that have little to do with public safety. In fact, if incarceration could make us safer, the United States would be the safest nation in the world. We are home to barely 5 percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of its incarcerated people, with people booked into jail nearly 11 million times each year. Instead, years of research have shown that crime rates, public safety, and community health are more likely to be negatively affected by incarceration than they are to be improved.

Vera is working to end mass incarceration. It will not be enough to arrest and prosecute fewer people, although that is an important step. We must also reduce the footprint of incarceration by reversing the trend of building new jails and prisons and overfilling existing facilities.

people are admitted to jail every year.
3 in 4
people in jail have not been convicted of a crime.
1 in 7
Vera works to ensure people behind bars are treated with dignity and given opportunities for growth.
We can do better than jail and prison

Too often, jail and prison reform efforts shift people to other harmful forms of carceral control, including supervision and electronic monitoring. For this reason, Vera focuses on both ending mass criminalization and mass incarceration. To achieve true decarceration, changes must center racial equity, shrink the system’s overall footprint, and redirect resources from punishment to community investment. We work to build and disseminate actionable, equitable decarceration strategies and policies to shift power and resources into community priorities and community-based responses to poverty, public health problems, and precarity.

We can replace incarceration with justice, without sacrificing safety.

Vera works on the ground to deliver real solutions

Vera teams work with communities to deliver real solutions to end mass incarceration. The In Our Backyards initiative focuses on the problem of smaller city and rural incarceration, examining how jails get built, who is in them, and how to stop the jail boom across the urban to rural spectrum with local, state and federal policy change. Our Jail Decarceration team helps local communities understand how jail population trends have changed over time and drivers of jail incarceration, including factors that bring people into jail and factors that keep them there. In partnership with these communities, the team identifies strategies that elevate and create new pathways to community safety and health without relying on punishment and incarceration. And the Ending Girls’ Incarceration initiative aims to reduce the number of incarcerated girls and gender-expansive youth to zero by 2030.