Our Strategic Priorities

End the criminalization of people of color, immigrants, and people experiencing poverty

Throughout its history, the United States has criminalized marginalized people. Our criminal legal system was set up to enforce slavery and, later, to control formerly enslaved people through Black Codes and vagrancy laws. That overcriminalization continues today through racial profiling and overenforcement of minor offenses. More than 80 percent of all arrests are for low-level, nonviolent offenses and conduct related to poverty. Our jails and prisons are filled with people who have been overpoliced for conditions related to homelessness, substance use, and mental health. And people who can’t pay court fines and fees for minor violations face license suspensions and jail time for their inability to pay. Thousands of people immigrating to the country are criminalized for crossing the border. Vera is working to end overcriminalization that entraps people in the criminal legal and immigration systems.

Drastically reduce the use of jails, prisons, and detention centers

The United States is the most incarcerated nation in the world. Currently, there are nearly two million people behind bars and 500,000 more in immigration detention. Many are incarcerated simply because they can’t afford bail, and incarceration for even a few days means that people can lose their jobs, housing, children, and access to education. Many people are serving excessively punitive sentences based on misguided “tough on crime” policies. Vera works to end money bail; support a new generation of prosecutors to eliminate racial disparities in charging and sentencing; stop the unnecessary use of jails, especially in rural areas where jail population growth is the steepest; and end cruelly long sentencing.

Center dignity and minimize the harms of criminal legal and immigration system involvement

The criminal legal and immigration systems inflict devastating long-term personal, social, and economic harms. Lack of access to education in prison, excessive fines and fees, widespread use of money bail, and other punitive practices traumatize millions and leave them ill-equipped to succeed when they return home. Vera is committed to drastically decreasing incarceration while safeguarding the dignity of and reducing harms to the nearly two million people currently behind bars.

Support safe and thriving communities with comprehensive strategies that ensure accountability and are rooted in public health

We envision and implement approaches rooted in community perspectives, elevating the voices and needs of those who have been directly impacted by our current system. Our communities need better health care, schools, housing, drug treatment programs, and other social services. At Vera, our goal is not only to shrink and transform the criminal legal and immigration systems. We believe that true public safety for thriving communities requires investment in public health strategies and deep community involvement.