New York State is a microcosm of the landscape of incarceration across our country. Large, urban areas like New York City carry the torch of justice reform—standing tall on a commitment to close the notorious jail complex at Rikers Island and further drive down crime. In contrast, rural, less populated parts of the state—in counties like Chautauqua and Clinton—are overlooked as potential sites for criminal justice innovation, despite having the highest rates of jail incarceration and the most pressing need for reform.

New York is at a unique moment of consensus that criminal justice reform must happen, at the local level in cities big and small, and at the state level in the legislature. In partnership with stakeholders and advocates, Vera is working across New York on a number of policy and practice initiatives to reform bail, improve due process, and increase access to justice. By targeting upstate counties and areas that have the highest rates of incarceration—and those that hold the most promise for reform, like New York City—Vera is helping to shape a statewide policy agenda and drive local conversations about decarceration and public safety in New York. Over a five-year initiative, Vera will invest in the policies and practices that promote a greater justice for all of New York.

Project Objectives

  • To support the closure of Rikers Island and help to create a leaner, fairer, and more effective criminal justice system where incarceration is the last resort, not the default.

  • To pilot innovative projects and ideas that drive decarceration, eliminate wealth-based detention, and reduce racial disparities in New York’s jails and prisons.   

  • To produce research and knowledge that informs the public conversation and the policy agenda on bail reform, due process, and access to justice in New York.