Letter: Build Back Better Act

Dear Speaker Pelosi, Minority Leader McCarthy, Majority Leader Schumer, and Minority Leader McConnell:

The Vera Institute of Justice (Vera), a national criminal legal reform and immigrant justice organization, commends the U.S. House of Representatives on the passage of the Build Back Better (BBB) Act, a bill making historic investments in economic and climate change policy that will strengthen our economy and communities across the country for generations to come. We encourage the Senate to take up the bill and pass it quickly while keeping the package intact and ensuring the intended impact of the policy—to improve people’s lives and strengthen communities and the economy—is realized.

As a long-standing criminal justice reform organization, Vera wholeheartedly supports provisions in the BBB Act that invest in community-driven public safety, including the community-based violence intervention (CVI) funding and the funding for services for people returning from jail and prison. Investing in CVI strategies is a crucial step toward evidence-based solutions to prevent further gun violence. In cities that have invested in CVI, gun homicides have declined between 16 and 35 percent and saved millions of dollars from decreases in crime. With nearly two million people incarcerated in local jails and state prisons and 600,000 returning each year to our communities, investing in adequate support and preparation increases the likelihood of their success on reentry. The BBB Act provides billions of dollars for reentry programs, both through pilot workforce development programs designed specifically for formerly incarcerated people as well as funding for other employment and training activities that the general public can tap into.

Vera strongly supports funding for implementation of these critical provisions in BBB, prioritizing Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC)-led organizations that have been working for years to reduce violence in our communities. The federal government’s investment in these organizations and their sophisticated strategies, which are responsive to the needs of communities already under stress from years of disinvestment and systemic racism as well as the tragic loss of life and connections during the COVID-19 pandemic, is crucial.

Successful implementation of CVI and reentry programs depends on extraordinary levels of dedication and openness to operating differently and including community- based organizations with the credentials to get results. The United States needs continued investment in capacity-building to sustain and grow the workforce required to carry out these strategies. Vera supports people who have been repeatedly impacted by our systems and applauds all efforts to center and elevate BIPOC-led organizations and BIPOC leaders in the movement to execute antiracist policy and make communities safer.

Vera is grateful to the Black leaders and other leaders of color who have worked with and pushed the Biden administration and Congress to develop a strong and growing coalition to demonstrate the importance of investing in solutions that do not involve more police.

Finally, we are heartened to see provisions in the House-passed BBB Act for immigrants to live and work in this country without fear of deportation. Although we are disappointed a path to citizenship was not included—as it is the ultimate change we need to fully include immigrants in our communities—we call on the Senate to keep these immigration provisions and include critical funding for legal representation for people facing deportation.

We look forward to working with our allies in the Senate to pass a strong Build Back Better Act and to sharing our expertise from years of work on these issues with the Biden administration to implement the essential criminal legal reforms and immigration provisions in the bill.


Nick Turner
President & Director

About the Vera Institute of Justice
The Vera Institute of Justice is powered by hundreds of advocates, researchers, and activists working to transform the criminal legal and immigration systems until they’re fair for all. Founded in 1961 to advocate for alternatives to money bail in New York City, Vera is now a national organization that partners with impacted communities and government leaders for change. We develop just, antiracist solutions so that money doesn’t determine freedom; fewer people are in jails, prisons, and immigration detention; and everyone is treated with dignity. Vera’s headquarters is in Brooklyn, New York, with offices in Washington, DC, New Orleans, and Los Angeles. For more information, visit vera.org.