Vera Institute of Justice Announces Second Round of “In Our Backyards Community Grants” to Support Local Efforts to Reduce the Trend of Rising Incarceration in Small Cities and Rural Counties

NEW YORK, NY – Last week, the Vera Institute of Justice announced its second round of In Our Backyards Community Grants, which will support organizing, research, and public education to reduce mass incarceration in small cities and rural communities.

The number of people in U.S. jails has been rising for the past five years, fueled by growth outside of major cities. This is despite meaningful progress in major metro areas, which has been totally eroded by the deepening crisis in smaller communities. And as jail populations rise, that growth is often accompanied by the increased use of other forms of control and surveillance, including probation and electronic monitoring. The In Our Backyards Community Grants are meant to drive reform and sustain vital work to decarcerate that is often overlooked in national reform conversations. The cohort of grantees will also be supported with Vera’s incarceration data and research to help end mass incarceration where it begins—at the local level.

In Our Backyards Campaign Director Jasmine Heiss said, “The incarceration crisis in smaller communities throws into sharp relief some of the most deleterious aspects of mass incarceration: smaller city and rural incarceration is marked by deep racial disparities, small communities are driving the growing incarceration of women, and resource-poor communities are investing in bigger jails at the expense of lifesaving resources like housing, treatment, and care. It is impossible to end mass incarceration, and its devastating impact on poor and vulnerable people, without a movement that spans communities of all sizes.”

Applicants are eligible to apply for up to $20,000 to support work over an eight-month period (June 2020 – February 2021). Application materials must be submitted by April 6, and through a competitive selection process, Vera will fund up to 10 organizations. Read about the inaugural cohort of In Our Backyards Community Grantees and learn more about their work at

About the Vera Institute of Justice:

The Vera Institute of Justice is a justice reform change agent. Vera produces ideas, analysis, and research that inspire change in the systems people rely upon for safety and justice and works in close partnership with government and civic leaders to implement it. Across projects, Vera is committed to explicitly, pointedly and effectively reducing the burdens of the justice system on people of color, and framework with an understanding of our country’s history of racial oppression. Vera is currently pursuing core priorities of ending the misuse of jails, transforming conditions of confinement, providing legal services for immigrants, and ensuring that justice systems more effectively serve America’s increasingly diverse communities.