New Report from the Vera Institute of Justice—Promising Alternatives to Jails

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 16, 2021

CONTACT: Jazmyn Strode,

NEW YORK, NY – Today, the Vera Institute of Justice, with support from the Safety and Justice Challenge, an initiative of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, released a new multimedia report identifying promising alternatives to jail incarceration from across the country. Along with a print report detailing the costs and harms of the United States’ overreliance on jails, Beyond Jails also includes digital content with a video series highlighting the promising, community-based ways four major cities—Chicago, Baltimore, Denver, and Tucson—are working to safely reduce their jail populations.

Specifically, the multimedia report offers insight into noncarceral responses to:

  • Behavioral health crises, which often fall to police, who might not be best suited to handle the situation. Although officers may possess de-escalation skills, the presence of armed, uniformed officers can exacerbate feelings of distress and escalate mental health-related situations, particularly in Black communities, which historically have been overpoliced. Centers like Chicago’s Westside Community Triage and Wellness Center, which provides urgent behavioral health care to the Westside’s largely Black and Latinx residents, is one successful example of providing support without law enforcement involvement.
  • Chronic homelessness, specifically relating to how the criminal legal system can perpetuate homelessness. Lack of a stable mailing address to receive notification of court dates, exclusion from pretrial diversion programs due to lack of housing or employment, and inability to realistically abide by certain standard conditions of probation are just a few of the disadvantages people experiencing homelessness face once they are enmeshed in the criminal legal system. Denver’s Supportive Housing Social Impact Bond initiative connects people experiencing homelessness with suitable, stable housing instead of jails and provides other services to help break the cycle between homelessness and the criminal legal system.
  • Cycles of interpersonal violence that are rarely solved by—and frequently exacerbated by—incarceration. In Baltimore, communities are addressing conflict through the Baltimore Community Mediation Center, which provides mediation services for residents before, during, and after violence, empowering them to identify grievances, talk through sources of conflict, and establish their own solutions to harmful confrontations.

The report is part of a series written by Vera and supported by the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge initiative, which is reimagining and rebuilding local criminal justice systems through direct partnerships with jurisdictions nationwide. View the full report here.

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

About the Safety and Justice Challenge and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation supports creative people, effective institutions, and influential networks building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. MacArthur is placing a few big bets that truly significant progress is possible on some of the world’s most pressing social challenges, including advancing global climate solutions, decreasing nuclear risk, promoting local justice reform in the U.S., and reducing corruption in Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria. In addition to the MacArthur Fellows Program and the global 100&Change competition, the Foundation continues its historic commitments to the role of journalism in a responsive democracy as well as the vitality of our headquarters city, Chicago. MacArthur’s Safety and Justice Challenge seeks to reduce over-incarceration by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails.”