Launched in 2019, Vera California partners with community and government stakeholders to reduce the use of incarceration, combat racial injustice, and increase investments in community-based systems of care in the state. Although California has a reputation as a progressive bastion, it has an outsized carceral footprint, with nearly half a million people in jail, prison, immigration detention, or on probation supervision daily, and billions spent per year on prisons alone. Black and Latinx Californians have disproportionately borne the brunt of decades of failed criminal legal system policies and systemic disinvestment in housing, employment, treatment, and services. Now, millions of Californians—inspired by the work of organizers, advocates, and directly impacted people—are demanding an end to mass incarceration and the status quo. Vera California collaborates with government leaders and community partners to make change and realize a shared vision of wellness, safety, and racial equity for all Californians.

The natural starting place for Vera California’s work was Los Angeles, home to our office but also the largest jail system in the country, holding on average 17,000 people daily prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. After decades of grassroots advocacy, the county Board of Supervisors committed to a new “care first” approach to reducing its historic reliance on incarceration. Since 2019, Vera California has partnered with county and community stakeholders to develop concrete recommendations to decarcerate, invest in community-based systems of care, and close the notoriously inhumane Men’s Central Jail. Now, we are working hard with others to turn the county’s promises into action and make Los Angeles a state and national model for transformative change.

In addition to our work in Los Angeles, we are committed to leveraging our data, research, and policy expertise to build political will to decarcerate statewide; address the reach and racial disparities of the criminal legal system; promote investment in community-based systems of care; and support California’s community-led movements and government leaders implementing change for a “care first” future.