Michael Jacobson to Step Down as President of Vera Institute of Justice

NEW YORK—Michael Jacobson, president and director of the Vera Institute of Justice, announced that he will step down this winter from his leadership role at the preeminent nonpartisan and nonprofit center for justice research and policy. Jacobson, who has been president for eight years, leaves to create and head a new public and fiscal policy institute for state and local governments at the City University of New York, where he will also be a professor in the sociology department of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

“I am pleased to hand over the leadership of Vera at such a high point in its 51-year history,” Jacobson told the Board of Trustees and staff. “It has been a privilege to work with my colleagues at Vera and on our Board to advance our mission of working with government partners to make justice systems fairer and more efficient for those who rely on them. I look forward to the challenge of starting a new institute and tackling new challenges—and will draw on the Vera model of using quality research, technical assistance, and demonstration projects to help government partners find solutions to pressing problems in times of great fiscal constraints.  Of course, this news is bittersweet as I will miss my colleagues, for whom I have enormous respect. However, I am confident that they will continue to do groundbreaking work.”

“Michael Jacobson has been a transformative leader,” said John F. Savarese, chairman of the Board of Trustees. “During his tenure, he enhanced Vera’s position as an innovative research, demonstration, and policy institution and particularly advanced work proving that fairer systems of justice can also be more efficient at stewarding public resources. He also mentored and guided a superb and dedicated team that includes world-class researchers and leaders in their own right. The Board knows that long after Michael has embarked upon this exciting new chapter in his life, we will continue to benefit from the innovation, vision, and energy he provided for nearly a decade.”

Laurie O. Robinson, professor of criminology, law and society at George Mason University, who served as assistant attorney general heading the Office of Justice Programs at the U.S. Department of Justice from 2009 to 2012, said, “Michael's on-the-front-lines criminal justice experience, combined with his insider's knowledge of state and local government budgeting, have made him a voice people listen to in Washington. His credibility on Capitol Hill and federal agencies has served Vera well. People remember Michael and quote him after he leaves town.”

During his tenure, Jacobson significantly strengthened Vera’s fiscal and organizational capacities. Vera’s budget increased three-fold and it opened new offices in Washington, DC, New Orleans, and Los Angeles, working in 45 states in all as well as internationally in Africa, China, and elsewhere. Jacobson and his team work with city, state, national, and international government leaders to develop responses to some of the most intractable problems facing society and to serve people most in need of help. Among Vera’s accomplishments under Jacobson’s leadership:

  • In 2005, Vera launched The Guardianship Project in New York City, in collaboration with the New York State Office of Court Administration, to address systemic inadequacies in the practice of legal guardianship, primarily for elderly incapacitated people.  
  • Since 2006 Vera has helped the City of New Orleans reform its criminal justice system as part of its post-Katrina recovery efforts, including establishing the city’s first pretrial services program.  
  • Vera created the Substance Use and Mental Health Program (SUMH) in 2006 to help develop effective responses to the substance use and mental health needs of people involved in justice systems. Recently, SUMH helped the New York City Department of Correction develop a tool for evaluating the treatment needs of people incarcerated at Rikers Island and is working with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department on a similar assessment tool.  
  • Vera started the Cost-Benefit Analysis Unit in 2009 to integrate the tools of cost-benefit analysis into the Institute’s hallmark policy-development partnerships with government agencies and organizations.  
  • In 2010, Vera created the Center on Victimization and Safety (CVS) to work with government and nonprofit organizations to help people who experience domestic or sexual violence. CVS has worked in numerous jurisdictions around the United States to end violence against people with disabilities and build community coalitions of service providers and law enforcement agencies to provide effective services for survivors with disabilities.

Before joining Vera, Jacobson was a professor at the Graduate Center for the City University of New York and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He was the New York City correction commissioner from 1995 to 1998 and the city's probation commissioner from 1992 to 1996. Prior to that, he worked in the New York City Office of Management and Budget, where he was the deputy budget director. He is the author of Downsizing Prisons: How to Reduce Crime and End Mass Incarceration. He serves as chair of the New York City Criminal Justice Agency and holds a PhD in sociology from the Graduate Center. Jacobson is the fourth president of Vera, which was founded in 1961.

Jacobson will remain as president as the search for his successor commences. The search will be conducted by the Board, with trustee Sandra A. Lamb chairing the search committee.