Spotlights

Reimagining Prison in Germany and Norway

Vera is working to reimagine prisons—to create a system rooted in human dignity that requires a wholesale change of what it means to live behind bars. As described in our recently released report Reimagining Prison, we have found inspiration in Germany, where part of a reckoning with the horrors of the Holocaust was a prison system recognizing the human dignity of those it holds. Prison life there approximates as much as possible the positive aspects of life in the community, and is a centrally focused on rehabilitation, resocialization, and reentry. We know it is possible in the United States—our Restoring Promise initiative has already opened restorative justice units for young adult men and women in Connecticut and Massachusetts, soon to be joined by South Carolina.

In October 2018, we brought our third delegation to Germany, and this time to Norway as well, to learn together, be inspired by what we learn, and bring lessons back to the U.S. We were joined by corrections leaders and staff; policymakers right and left; advocates both right and left; funders; and media and social media. The study tour brought participants to the Northern German states of Hamburg, Berlin, and Brandenburg, then finally to Norway. The delegation visited seven prisons, and in Berlin, observed a criminal court proceeding and held discussions with judges and prosecutors. It also included visits to a concentration camp and the Holocaust memorial, to put into historical context the commitment to human dignity after World War II. Photos, blog posts, and other highlights of the journey – as well as our Reimagining Prison report and launch event video – are below.

Vera’s trip to Germany and Norway provoked deep consideration of whether the U.S. prison system can move towards one that is based on human dignity. Photos from the trip are available here.
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The delegation included a diverse group of people from government, advocacy, media and philanthropy. The full list of names along with bios is available here.
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Rebecca Vallas has a conversation with Rudy Valdez, the filmmaker behind HBO’s The Sentence, a documentary highlighting the toll mandatory minimums take on families; Vera Institute of Justice President Nick Turner on “reimagining prison”.
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Vera's tour of prisons in Germany and Norway inspired discussion across the digital landscape about reimagining a prison system in the U.S. based on human dignity. Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter at #reimagineprison.
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The Vera Institute of Justice and staff and residents of the T.R.U.E. unit at Cheshire Correctional Institution in Connecticut convened to Reimagine Prison in the United States. The event includes a simulcast and a discussion with incarcerated young men and corrections officers from the Connecticut prison where the T.R.U.E. unit operates as an example of radical reimagining and re-engineering.
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Explore highlights, rare footage, and rich media that provides a real-life glimpse into the socio-political conditions leading to mass incarceration and places on the ground where human dignity has already taken root.
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