Our Vision

A society that respects the dignity of every person and safeguards justice for everyone.

Our Purpose

To drive change. To urgently build and improve justice systems that ensure fairness, promote safety, and strengthen communities.

Achieving Our Purpose

We work with others who share our vision to tackle the most pressing injustices of our day: from the causes and consequences of mass incarceration, racial disparities, and the loss of public trust in law enforcement, to the unmet needs of the vulnerable, the marginalized, and those harmed by crime and violence.

What we do is simple and direct:

  • Study the problems that impede human dignity and justice;
  • Pilot solutions that are at once transformative and achievable;
  • Engage diverse communities in informed public debate and;
  • Harness the power of evidence to drive effective policy and practice with policymakers and practitioners.

After more than a half-century working on the frontlines of justice, we remain committed to sharing our experience and expertise with leaders in government and civil society to inspire and drive change.

Our Values

Respect. We listen closely, accept and offer feedback constructively, invite diverse perspectives, and treat each other and our partners with respect and compassion.

Independence. We ask difficult questions, entertaining unconventional answers, and reckoning with any uncomfortable truths our research and practice may reveal.

Collaboration. We actively engage others—from those denied justice to those charged with its administration—because we are most effective when we work in partnership.

Commitment. We dedicate ourselves to the highest standards in research and practice because nothing short of continual learning and improvement will help us effect the change we seek.

Our Story

In 1961, philanthropist Louis Schweitzer and magazine editor Herb Sturz recognized the injustice of a bail system in New York City that granted liberty based on income. Working with criminal justice leaders, they explored the problem, developed a solution, and rigorously tested it. Within a few years, they had demonstrated that New Yorkers too poor to afford bail but with strong ties to their communities could be released and still show up for trial. Evidence of a viable alternative to bail forever changed how judges make release decisions in criminal courts around the world, while also reducing costs and minimizing disruption in the lives of innocents. It also led to the founding of the Vera Institute of Justice—named for Schweitzer's mother—to pursue similar initiatives. Today, Vera staff are leading more than two dozen separate projects that aim to reveal more about the meaning of justice even as they make a difference in the lives of individuals. Every Vera project begins with an examination of how a targeted part of the justice system really works. Often, this inspires the design of a practical experiment or the development of a rational course for reform. Whatever path a project takes, Vera's goal is to help government partners achieve measurable improvements in the quality of justice they deliver and to share what they've learned with people around the world. The result: Justice systems that are fairer, more humane, and more effective for everyone.


Vera is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit center for justice policy and practice, with offices in New York City, Washington, DC, New Orleans, and Los Angeles. Our projects and reform initiatives, typically conducted in partnership with local, state, or national officials, are located across the United States and around the world.