Like many justice reform organizations, Vera is often asked, “What are the latest and most interesting developments in the field?” This question has grown more common as more and more people confront the need to improve the nation’s broken justice system and want to help.

We endeavor in this report to provide the beginning of an answer, limiting our scope (mostly) to 2017, the first year of a new administration—one pushing a “law and order” platform—and covering most, but not all, areas of justice reform. 

Vera’s task was to determine which of the thousands of changes to policy, practice, and legislation should be covered in this annual recap. To discern what should be included, we first asked Vera’s own internal experts to weigh in and identify what they felt was most important to cover in their subject areas. “Importance” was defined by the following criteria: 

  • the potential impact of a reform;
  • the degree of change from past practice or norms; and/or
  • the degree to which the field or the media is looking to a reform as a promising or leading practice to improve systems.

Using this definition, “importance” can be positive or negative, supportive or hostile to reform. The report thus focuses on both the best and the worst of 2017.

After hearing from Vera’s own experts, we reached outward, crowdsourcing suggestions from Vera’s Facebook and Twitter followings. Vera also invited 30 external experts to review drafts of specific sections, who are gratefully acknowledged under “Contributors.” Finally, Vera is issuing this as a digital report to allow for ongoing feedback and contributions, with the hope that this dialogue will add even more to the collective knowledge base about the year that was.