Nicholas Turner Named New President and Director of the Vera Institute of Justice

New York, NY—The Board of Trustees of the Vera Institute of Justice has named Nicholas Turner as Vera’s next president and director. Mr. Turner, currently a managing director at The Rockefeller Foundation and previously vice president and chief program officer at Vera, was elected by a unanimous vote of Vera’s trustees following a national search.

He will succeed Michael Jacobson, who last year announced his plans to step down after more than eight years of leadership. Dr. Jacobson, now director of the Institute of State and Local Governance and professor of sociology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, continues his association with Vera as an affiliated scholar and honorary trustee. Mr. Turner will be the fifth director of the 52-year-old Institute, an independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit center for justice policy and practice, with offices in New York City, Washington, DC, New Orleans, and Los Angeles. Vera develops research-based projects and reform initiatives, typically in partnership with local, state, or national officials across the United States as well as internationally.

“Throughout more than 50 years of developing important innovations across a wide array of justice and social service systems, Vera has been fortunate to have visionary leaders whose talents were well suited to the particular time,” said John Savarese, chair of Vera’s Board of Trustees and a partner at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz in New York City. “We are exceedingly pleased to have successfully recruited Nick to become Vera’s next leader at this critical juncture, when there is a broad public interest in promoting new ideas that achieve both greater fairness and prudent fiscal efficiency. Nick’s sharp intellect, persuasive powers, and talented leadership—coupled with his passion for Vera’s mission—are precisely what Vera needs in its second half century. The board is thrilled that Nick will be leading Vera, and we look forward to working with him.”

“I am honored to return to Vera and take its helm at this important moment,” said Mr. Turner. “For the past five decades, Vera’s pioneering and evidence-driven work has shaped the administration of justice and improved lives. Its approach and expertise will remain essential and take on even greater urgency as our country evolves in the coming decades.

“The United States is becoming increasingly urban, challenging mayors and municipal leaders to promote public safety in smart ways that do not overly burden the communities they lead. And these communities are increasingly racially and ethnically diverse. By 2042, only a little more than a generation from now, ‘minorities’ will make up the majority of the nation’s population. Our systems of justice have a profound impact on the lives of people and communities of color—the very same people and communities that we will increasingly rely upon to fuel the nation’s prosperity and growth. That is yet another reason why it is in our collective interest to continue and expand Vera’s work to remove barriers to full participation in society and the economy. I am thrilled to work with Vera’s dedicated and passionate staff, board, partners, and collaborators on this and other challenges.”

A managing director at The Rockefeller Foundation since 2007, Mr. Turner has been a member of the foundation’s senior leadership team and has been a co-leader of its global urban efforts. There, he has shaped and executed two multi-year, multi-million-dollar strategies: one to advance economic security and climate protection by transforming United States transportation policy at multiple levels of government, and another to create a high-functioning community development system in New Orleans and increase racial and socioeconomic integration there.

“Nick has been a leader at Rockefeller, bringing smarts, rigor, and passion to advancing greater equity and resilience, particularly for the poor or vulnerable” said Dr. Judith Rodin, president of The Rockefeller Foundation. “Nick will be hugely missed by colleagues, grantees, and partners, but we know that he has a wonderful opportunity to continue his work to advance an equitable and inclusive future when he returns to Vera.”

Mr. Turner will join Vera in mid-August. He will lead the institution at a time when the issues it addresses are an increasing focus of public and government attention. Since its founding in 1961, Vera has been grounded in a mission to serve people and government by improving the systems and services we all rely on for justice and safety. It does this using multiple approaches that include conducting research and evaluations, providing comprehensive technical assistance to public and private agencies, and designing, testing, and refining field-based solutions and demonstration projects to problems of injustice that disproportionately affect vulnerable populations. City, state, and national government leaders look to Vera to develop responses to some of the most intractable problems facing society and to serve people most in need of help on a growing range of issues—corrections and sentencing, youth and family justice, immigration and policing, victimization and safety, race and prosecution, substance use and mental health, and cost benefit analysis. Vera now works in more than 40 states and has numerous national research and policy initiatives, as well as demonstration projects in restorative justice, guardianship, and adolescent therapy in New York City and pretrial services in New Orleans.

Mr. Turner will return to an organization he helped shape. Prior to joining Rockefeller, he served in a number of positions at Vera, which he first joined in 1998. His first role was to help develop ideas for demonstration projects aimed at keeping troubled substance-using youth out of the justice system and easing reentry for adult prisoners. From there, Mr. Turner guided the expansion of Vera’s national work. He launched and directed Vera’s state sentencing and corrections work and supervised the expansion of Vera’s domestic violence projects and the creation of its youth justice program. By the time he left Vera he was vice president and chief program officer. In that role he was responsible for the development and launch of the Prosecution and Racial Justice Program and the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons.  

“Nick is a superb choice to lead Vera in its second half century,” said Herb Sturz, Vera’s founding director who now serves as a senior adviser at the Open Society Foundations. “We began Vera in an effort to help make the administration of criminal justice fairer and more effective. Vera has repeatedly demonstrated to government and other partners better ways to secure and enhance justice while preserving individual rights. Nick brings an intelligence and experience to bear on today’s criminal justice challenges.”

Prior to his work with Vera, Mr. Turner was an associate in the litigation department of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in New York from 1997 to 1998. He was a judicial clerk for the Honorable Jack. B. Weinstein, Senior United States District Judge in Brooklyn from 1996 to 1997. Prior to attending law school, Mr. Turner worked with court-involved, homeless, and troubled young people at Sasha Bruce Youthwork, a Washington, DC youth services organization, from 1989 to 1993.

Mr. Turner received his BA from Yale College and his JD from Yale Law School. He and his wife Theresa Trzaskoma live with their two sons Wiley and Malcolm in Brooklyn.