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Photo by Jack Norton

In Our Backyards Community Grants

To spark and sustain reform beyond the biggest cities, Vera is awarding grants to community-based and/or statewide organizations committed to reducing incarceration and resisting jail expansion in small and rural communities. These grants are designed to support regional and local campaign efforts that use the following tiers of strategy:

  1. Make data and knowledge about local incarceration more widely available, including incarceration trends, specific policies and practices driving local incarceration, the power of locally elected and appointed officials to reduce incarceration, the racially and ethnically disparate impact of local criminal legal systems, rising rates of women’s incarceration, the interaction between community supervision and jail admissions, and other local issues contributing to incarceration;
  2. Change the public narrative about incarceration in local and national media by elevating the human toll of jails and prisons, the ways incarceration harms public safety, and the particular needs and experiences of small and rural communities; and
  3. Build public and governmental will to end mass incarceration locally and statewide through policy and practice change.

The third round of partnership grants awarded by Vera’s In Our Backyards initiative is driven by a recognition of two key dynamics:

  • First, in many of the thousands of high-incarceration counties across the country, local government lacks the political will for meaningful reform. This may be rooted in a lack of awareness about the severity of local incarceration, a belief that the system is functioning as it should, or a misconception that growing prison admissions and crowded jails can’t be addressed by policy change.
  • Second, the most ambitious efforts to reduce incarceration in America’s biggest cities have been driven and sustained by locally rooted organizing and advocacy that creates momentum for reform and holds local governments accountable for progress. Organizing and advocacy groups in small cities and rural counties benefit from opportunities to share strategies and connect to this larger movement.

Learn more and access the full request for proposals.

An optional conference call will be held on May 10 from 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. EST. To RSVP and receive dial-in information, email

Proposals will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. EST on Monday, May 31, 2021 and must be submitted to

Please direct any questions to