Spotlights

Restoring Promise

An initiative creating housing units grounded in dignity for young adults in prison

The design and nature of mass incarceration in America and the culture that sustains it are among the most profound, most unyielding, and least addressed problems for justice today. We warehouse 2.3 million people in cramped, unhealthy spaces devoid of natural light, fresh air, healthy food, and connection to community and family. This is a direct consequence of a 400-year through line of systemic racial oppression and white supremacy in America.

Restoring Promise®, an initiative of the Vera Institute of Justice and MILPA, is creating housing units grounded in dignity for young adults in prison. We help transform correctional culture through training, presentations, workshops, and healing circles—setting a new tone for the entire system.

In our housing units, young adults participate in meaningful daily activities, experience healing, cultivate an ideology of self-determination, and restore relationships with family and community. Mentors (people over the age of 25) support them in their personal growth. Staff undergo intensive training to become agents of change within the system. The result: increased safety and stronger sense of purpose among staff and incarcerated people. In each housing unit, prison, and state we have worked, we hear incarcerated people, corrections staff, and agency leadership reflect “we can’t and won’t go back.”

Today, we work in Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Massachusetts, North Dakota, and South Carolina. Our critical work is supported by Arnold Ventures.

Learn more on Restoring Promise’s website.

Take a look at CBS’ 60 Minutes feature on Restoring Promise’s first unit, T.R.U.E.—Truthfulness, Respectfulness, Understanding, and Elevating—a transformed housing unit for young adults at the Cheshire Correctional Institution. Modeled after modern German practices, T.R.U.E. places an emphasis on dignity and accountability.
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Explore this dynamic multimedia collection of stories, co-produced by the people who live and work in Restoring Promise’s second unit, P.A.C.T.—People Achieving Change Together—at the Middlesex Jail and House of Correction in Massachusetts. Through Their Eyes offers a hopeful glimpse of what the future of American justice could look like.
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Read a New York Times and The Marshall Project feature on Restoring Promise’s third unit, W.O.R.T.H.—To Help Young Women in Prison, Try Dignity—at the York Correctional Institution in Connecticut. W.O.R.T.H is truly the first-of-its-kind in a women’s prison.
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Explore highlights, rare footage, and rich media providing 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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Read The Marshall Project’s feature on the T.R.U.E. unit and how it fuses best practices from abroad lessons and of youth justice reform to replace the current punitive model of corrections with one that prioritizes healing, restorative justice, and hope.
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Architecture and design has a role to play in creating a reimagined prison: a place that heals, invests in human dignity, and restores communities. Watch a video created by architectural firm Mass Design Group for Vera's Reimagining Prison project.
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On the path to ending mass incarceration, we must reimagine our response to young adults so that it ensures access to programs and opportunities that prioritize restoration and reconciliation.
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