Like many justice reform organizations, Vera is often asked, “What are the latest and most interesting developments in the field?” Especially in 2018—as the nation grappled with immigration, mass incarceration, and the opioid crisis—more and more people confronted the need to improve the nation’s broken justice system and wanted to help.

This report observes and weighs the maturation of the new administration’s justice priorities—and the differing responses on a state and local level. It covers 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 policy or 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 2018.

After hearing from Vera’s own experts, we reached outward, inviting 21 external experts to review drafts of specific sections, whose contributions we gratefully acknowledge 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.