Ending Mass IncarcerationReducing the Use of Jails

Local Models

Solutions to the problem of bloated jails are within reach. Indeed, a vanguard of reform-minded officials are implementing reforms that others can follow and adapt. We’re working hand-in-hand with many of them.

In New Orleans, where Vera has had a local office since 2008, we’ve helped to expand alternatives to arrest, speed case processing, create pretrial services that change how courts make bail decisions, and most recently, begun to scope alternatives to the web of user fines and fees that in effect criminalize poverty. Our work with individual counties and cities (such as Oklahoma County and Tulsa County, OK and Whatcom County, WA) focuses on more targeted needs and problems and involves partnerships with a wide range of stakeholders, from the judiciary, to criminal justice policy bodies to chambers of commerce. And through the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge, we’re assisting officials in five sites who are committed to downsizing their jails.

Related Work

Report to Whatcom County Stakeholders on Jail Reduction Strategies

Between 1970 and 2014, the number of people in jail in Whatcom County grew almost ninefold—from 45 to 391 on any given day—while the overall county population only grew two-and-a-half times. With the county’s jail population surging, local government leaders, justice system practitioners, and community members became increasingly concerned about th...

  • Elizabeth Swavola, Kristi Riley, Vedan Anthony-North, Stephen Roberts
November 30, 2017

Jail in New York City

Evidence-Based Opportunities for Reform

Jail in New York City: Evidence-Based Opportunities for Reform examines the key decision points within New York City’s criminal justice system that drive people into the jail. The report uses rich data on case processing, pretrial decision-making, bail decisions, and case disposition to understand how decision makers can impact the size of the jail...

  • Michael Rempel, Ashmini Kerodal, Joseph Spadafore, Chris Mai
March 24, 2017

Past Due

Examining the Costs and Consequences of Charging for Justice in New Orleans

In 2015, government agencies in New Orleans collected $4.5 million in the form of bail, fines and fees from people involved in the criminal justice system and, by extension, from their families. Another $4.7 million was transferred from the pockets of residents to for-profit bail bond agents. These costs have become the subject of considerable publ...

  • Mathilde Laisne, Jon Wool, Christian Henrichson
January 09, 2017

Greater Oklahoma City Chamber Criminal Justice Reform Task Force

Report and Recommendations

For years, Oklahoma County has been grappling with an overcrowded and run-down jail. With discussions abounding about whether to replace it with a larger facility, the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce convened a task force to examine the county’s local justice system and needs. Chaired by Clayton Bennett, chairman of the Oklahoma City Thun...

  • Nancy Fishman, Kaitlin Kall, Hanna Dershowitz, Jessi LaChance, Stephen Roberts, Rebecca Silber
December 14, 2016

New Orleans: Who's in Jail and Why?

Quarterly data analysis of incarceration in NewOrleans

Until recently, New Orleans was the longtime nationwide leader in urban jail incarceration rate, which today remains at nearly double the national average. Although the population of the city’s jail has been declining since 2009, there is still much room for improvement, including addressing the considerable and persistent racial disparities in arr...

  • Rose Wilson, Theresa McKinney, Mathilde Laisne, Corinna Yazbek, Jonathan Varnado
August 03, 2016