Projects: NYC-based Research Projects
Our work in New York City spans across Vera’s centers and programs. What these projects have in common is close collaboration with our partners, data and evidence-driven approaches, and recommendations that seek to improve the systems that New Yorkers rely on for public safety, justice, and human services. Although these projects take place in the unique context of New York City, they all bear important implications and lessons for jurisdictions across the country.
In recent years, the Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO) in the New York City Mayor’s Office has looked to Vera to provide evaluations on programs to measure their impact, efficacy, and viability for expansion or replication.
A GED preparatory program housed at Bronx Community College (BCC), Future Now offers programs tailored to meet students’ personal and educational needs, preparing them for college and supporting them through their first year of enrollment. Future Now’s individualized approach and commitment to building resilience in each student are key components that have helped this evolving program seek out new ways to increase program retention, success, and college enrollment.
During the academic year 2013-2014, Vera conducted surveys, focus groups, and interviews with Future Now students and staff and analyzed program data from Future Now and the City University of New York (CUNY) to understand students’ experiences and educational outcomes.
In 2008, then-mayor Michael Bloomberg issued an executive order establishing a government office dedicated to using state-of-the-art technology to integrate service delivery for vulnerable New Yorkers throughout health and human service (HHS) agencies. A key component of this initiative was the development of Worker Connect—a data integration system that allows provisioned city workers to view client information across multiple city agencies.
Vera’s evaluation goals were twofold: to understand how city agencies use Worker Connect and to explore user perceptions of the system.
The Justice Community Program, developed as part of the Young Men’s Initiative, serves young people of color, ages 16 to 24, who have been involved in the criminal justice system. The program incorporates educational, employment, and civic engagement experiences. It is delivered by community-based organizations under contract with the NYC Department of Probation; about 40 percent of the program slots are designated to young adults on probation.
Vera's evaluation of this program includes observations, interviews with staff, focus groups with clients and with probation officers, and an analysis of administrative data.
In 2014, Vera released five policy briefs as part of CEO’s Innovations in NYC Health and Human Services Policy series that focused on reforms undertaken in New York City during the mayoralty of Michael Bloomberg. These briefs discuss the impetus and execution, successes, challenges, and other key elements of the city’s reform efforts in juvenile detention and placement, adult probation, child welfare, and data integration. Vera used various methods to understand and describe these reforms, including document reviews; interviews with key policymakers, stakeholders, and persons affected by reforms; and, wherever possible, data analysis.
In 1961, Vera embarked on its first project: reforming the bail system in New York City, which at the time granted liberty pretrial based only on income. Evidence from this project of a viable alternative to bail helped change how judges make release decisions in criminal courts around the world. Today, Vera is a national organization, leading dozens of projects across the country. However, with our headquarters just across the street from City Hall in Manhattan, much of our work remains closely linked to the heart of New York City’s criminal justice system.