From the Board Chair

John Savarese Circle Bw


This was a year of daunting challenge in America. Virulent racism raised its head in a startling way. We saw the return of fear-mongering, and tough on crime rhetoric and policy direction. We witnessed demonization of immigrant communities, and deeply unconstructive escalation of conflict between police and communities of color.

In the face of these challenges, I am proud of Vera’s accomplishments in 2017, delivered by the hard work and dedication of our staff, and backed by the generous support of my fellow trustees and many others across the nation.

We at Vera remain steadfast in our commitment to the bedrock American values of justice and human dignity. Vera works every day—alongside our government and community partners—to protect and restore the core American ideals that are the hallmark of our democratic society: safeguarding justice for everyone, protecting vulnerable families and communities, and building a more diverse and inclusive America.

We know from experience that, despite national challenges, many more public officials—on both sides of the aisle—are embracing solutions to crime that protect both public safety and human dignity.

Our partnerships with these leaders led to significant progress in 2017. Through the SAFE (Safety and Fairness for Everyone) Cities network, we expanded access to legal counsel for thousands of detained, indigent immigrants across the country—working to preserve community and family unity where they are most vulnerable. Building on our work with the Asheville, NC police department to help them reform their use-of-force policy, we launched a nationwide initiative to build trust and real partnership between police and communities in other cities. And, we  worked with allies to start making the closure of Rikers Island jail a reality.

Relentless optimism is in Vera’s DNA. But it also comes from the experience of making reform happen. Again and again. For more than 56 years—well before the phrase mass incarceration entered our common vocabulary—we have proven that hearts, minds, and the way government delivers justice, can change. Ultimately, that means lives change.

Under the continued leadership of Nick Turner, I know that Vera will continue in 2018 to make our justice systems more fair and effective for all.

Thank you, 

John Savarese
Chair, Vera Board of Trustees