Closing Mass Incarceration's Front Door
Our goal is substantially fewer people held in jail. In a landmark report, Vera alerted America to the negative impact of pretrial detention. The social cost is high: even a few days in jail can lead to longer incarceration and adversely influences the rest of a person’s life. Employment, family relationships, finances, and community health are all disrupted, and this often has a disproportionate impact on those at the bottom of the economic ladder. Too often, we see people presumed innocent, yet held in detention simply because they cannot afford bail as low as $500. Vera aims to revolutionize understanding of how jails contribute to mass incarceration. We are committed to aggressively shrinking the jailed population in the United States over the next five years—in 15 bellwether cities or major counties—by reducing the use of money as a determinant for release, increasing diversion from incarceration for substance use and mental health services, and reducing police over-reliance on arrest.
Promoting Safety, Trust, and Justice in a Diverse America
Our goal is a justice system fully prepared and able to deliver access, safety, and fairness to the diverse communities that make up America. Recent events have shown us with unprecedented clarity and power the corrosive stain of racism. What’s more, within three decades, our nation will be majority minority, and preparing the justice system for this tectonic shift is crucial. It will require work to establish trust in the administration of justice through due process protections, language access, enhanced understanding among justice system actors of differing cultural norms, the confronting and acknowledgement of bias and partnerships with community leaders in diverse communities. For example, our groundbreaking Compstat 2.0 project—launched in partnership with the Police Foundation—will enhance the famous police agency management tool used to measure crime statistics, so it holds police agencies accountable for community satisfaction and confidence as well. And we are committed to establishing that the federal government plays a role in ensuring that people facing deportation can pursue relief available to them with the legal assistance that requires.
Significantly Improving the Conditions of Confinement
Our goal is envisioning and enacting a system that prioritizes rehabilitation and socialization over retribution. How we operate jails and prisons reflects who we are and what we value as a society, and the movement for justice reform must include improving the lives of the incarcerated. We reject the notion that a criminal sentence is cause to deprive incarcerated people of the rights and capacities essential to their eventual success in life after they are released. Vera is committed to ending America’s widespread use of solitary confinement, restoring the opportunity for post-secondary education to prisoners, and advancing efforts to respond in developmentally appropriate ways to young people convicted of an offense. One important initiative will significantly cut the use of solitary confinement in 15 to 20 key states and large cities, with each receiving from Vera an extensive analysis of their current practices, recommendations for changes to those practices, and implementation assistance. Another will leverage new, experimental federal funding of college in prison to build momentum for permanent federal investment in it, with Vera guiding and advising the colleges that are receiving the funds, in order to strengthen their programs and encourage cross-site learning.