Greater Justice New York

New York State is a microcosm of the landscape of incarceration across our country. Advocates in large, urban areas like New York City fight for reforms and are committed to closing the notorious jail complex at Rikers Island and further driving down crime. But less populated rural parts of the state—counties like Chautauqua and Clinton—are overlooked as potential sites for criminal justice innovation, despite having the highest rates of jail incarceration and the most pressing need for reform.

New York is experiencing a unique moment. Pretrial and bail reform, declining crime rates, and policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic have dramatically decreased the state’s jail population—which dropped in June 2020 to the lowest point in generations.

GJNY uses data analysis, research, strategic communications, policy, and advocacy to advance bail and pretrial justice reform, reduce the use of jails and prisons, minimize the harms of involvement with the criminal legal system, and support reinvestment in strategies that build truly safe and thriving communities throughout the state of New York.

In partnership with stakeholders and advocates, GJNY is working to help transform the criminal legal system. By targeting counties with the highest rates of incarceration—and those already well on their way to meaningful reform—we seek to shape a statewide policy agenda and drive local conversations about decarceration and public safety. By strengthening our partnerships and building on recent victories, GJNY will continue to invest in the policies and practices that promote fair and equal justice for all New Yorkers.

GJNY is one of Vera’s three place-based initiatives, along with Vera California and Vera Louisiana. We serve the unique purpose of harnessing our strengths and assets to invest locally in dismantling the systems that punish and harm and building institutions that deliver safety and justice. Each of our place-based initiatives are led by staff who live in those communities.

drop in New York’s jail population in the aftermath of historic bail reform
percentage of New York’s prison population that is Black, compared to 17.6% of the state population
Nearly 50%
percentage of incarcerated people in New York City with a mental health diagnosis

Related news & stories


Vera asked three leaders from VOCAL-NY to share what it’s like to be incarcerated or to have a loved one incarcerated on Rikers Island. These are their stories.

Feb 02, 2022