Ending dependence on jails

The nation’s dependence on jails to solve community problems has fueled mass incarceration and disproportionately harmed people struggling with mental health conditions and substance use issues, as well as communities of color—while failing to create safety. To reduce this reliance on jails, Vera is working in cities and counties across the country to shift resources to community-driven solutions to help people thrive.

In 2019, local jails admitted 10.3 million people. Black and Indigenous people were jailed at rates more than triple and double those for white people, respectively. Vera is working to drastically reduce jail populations and improve race equity.

But it is not enough to simply reduce the number of people in jail. Too often, jail reforms merely shift people to burdensome community supervision and electronic monitoring. In 2019, more than 3.5 million people were on probation. To achieve true decarceration, changes must center racial equity, shrink the system’s overall footprint, and redirect resources to communities most impacted by incarceration.

Working with communities

Vera’s Jail Decarceration team has partnered with localities nationwide to develop strategies to reduce jail populations, engage communities, and improve racial equity.

We’ve worked with more than 15 jurisdictions to reduce their reliance on jails and traditional criminal legal practices. A collaborative, multidisciplinary working group in each community participates in a process that includes an in-depth analysis of what’s driving up the local jail population and where pressure can be applied to reduce it. But while diagnosing the problem is important, it’s time to do more.

Contact us
Elizabeth Swavola Former Project Director, Jail Decarceration eswavola@vera.org (212)-334-1300

Partnerships with real impact

Vera helps local communities move beyond analysis and into impact. We’re building a network of champions who support and see the necessity of jail decarceration, including people from communities that are not typically heard. Using Vera’s data analysis, research, and policy expertise, we work together with communities to help them craft solutions to reduce dependence on jail incarceration and replace it with a network of community-based supports that deliver real safety and wellbeing.

People everywhere want the same things: access to a healthy and supportive community and a chance to thrive. Jail can’t and won’t give them that, and it’s past time to spend our collective resources on strategies that can.

Our research

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The United States has responded to social issues like substance use crises, chronic homelessness, and ongoing cycles of interpersonal violence with jail.

Nov 09, 2021