From the President

Dear friends, 

Last year, I wrote to you about the urgency of now. Here at Vera, the urgency has not dissipated. It is only more pronounced. In 2017, just like you, we witnessed an escalation of rhetoric and action that dehumanizes people of color, punishes the poor, and instills fear of those who are different from us. We witnessed the detention and deportation of thousands of immigrant residents to face a life of separation from their loved ones, their livelihoods, and their communities. And, we witnessed demagoguery adding to already high levels of alienation, anger, and mistrust between police and communities.

But there was good, too. We pushed for and achieved a commitment to close New York City’s notorious Rikers Island jail, long considered a moral stain on the city. We activated 11 cities and counties—both red and blue—to commit to funding legal defense services for indigent immigrants detained and facing deportation. And, we helped the state of Connecticut restore hope and promise to dozens of incarcerated young men, mostly black and brown, through the implementation of a unique unit at the Cheshire Correctional Institute that focuses on healing, peer support, family connections, and career readiness.

Vera is at the forefront of these positive steps forward. And because of this progress, we remain hopeful. As it has for more than 56 years, our work is impacting the justice system at the state and local levels, where we partner with government agencies and communities to tackle some of the most pressing injustices of our day—from the causes and consequences of mass incarceration, racial disparities, and the loss of public trust in law enforcement, to the unmet needs of the vulnerable, the marginalized, and those harmed by crime and violence.

We also know that despite challenges of the moment, justice reform remains a bipartisan issue, and that among the communities impacted by incarceration, including small and rural counties, the need for change remains vital. That’s why we launched In Our Backyards, a major initiative funded by Google.org to use our unique data—that revealed startling growth in jail incarceration across rural America over the last 30 years—to highlight this problem, tell stories of those who are touched by the system, and spark reform at the local level.

We are more committed than ever to the ideals of fairness and equity as we look forward to 2018. The progress we made in the last year proves that change is possible, even in the most difficult of circumstances. I thank our tremendous and dedicated staff who continue to invest their time, energy, and expertise in this fight. And I want to thank our friends and supporters who believe in our work, and believe in us. With your help, our work to build a justice system rooted in the basic human dignity of all will continue to move onward.

Thank you,

Nicholas Turner
President, Vera Institute of Justice

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