We encourage you to explore Vera's extensive resource library, built up by decades of expert research, analysis, and real-world application. Vera produces a wide variety of resources about our work, including publications, podcasts, and videos, dating from our founding in 1961 to the present. You can search these resources using the filters below to sort by type of resource, project, or topic. Enter part of the title in the search box to look for a specific resource.
|from the INCARCERATION TRENDS project|
In national research, self-reported marijuana use is similar across races, but in New Orleans, black people are disproportionately arrested for marijuana offenses, including simple possession. While some states have legalized marijuana in recent years, the consequences for marijuana possession in Louisiana remain severe—under state law, repeated convictions for simple possession are punishable by multi-year prison sentences. This report illuminates through quantitative analysis the persistent racial disparities in marijuana policing from 2010 to 2015, and discusses the impacts of statutory and policy reforms the city has implemented to date. Through these findings, the report aims to guide state and local policymakers toward further improvements to lessen the harm even seemingly minor police encounters inflict on black communities, and inspire other jurisdictions to examine their own practices.
In 2014 and 2015, 46 states enacted at least 201 bills, executive orders, and ballot initiatives to reform at least one aspect of their sentencing and corrections systems. In conducting this review of state criminal justice reforms, Vera found that most of the policy changes focused on three areas: creating or expanding opportunities to divert people away from the criminal justice system; reducing prison populations by enacting sentencing reform, expanding opportunities for early release from prison, and reducing the number of people admitted to prison for violating the terms of their community supervision; and supporting reentry into the community from prison. By providing concise summaries of representative reforms in each of these areas, this report serves as a practical guide for other state and federal policymakers looking to affect similar changes in criminal justice policy.
Community-based sexual assault response teams, or SARTs, are considered a best practice for addressing the needs of victims and holding perpetrators accountable. The federal standards for implementing the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) mandate the coordinated response provided by SARTs to ensure that victims of sexual abuse in confinement settings—including jails, prisons, lockups, and community confinement and juvenile facilities—get the services and care they need. This guide, also available at PREAguide.org, is designed to assist administrators of local community confinement and juvenile detention facilities in collaborating with a SART. It is based on the experiences and lessons learned from the Sexual Assault Response Teams in Corrections Project (SARTCP), a multi-year pilot program funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), that Vera implemented in Johnson County, Kansas.
Research shows that prison visitation is integral to the success of incarcerated people, reducing recidivism, facilitating their reentry into the community, and promoting positive parent-child relationships. However, people are often incarcerated long distances from their home communities in areas that are difficult to reach by public transport, creating significant barriers to in-person visitation. Departments of corrections are therefore exploring the use of technology as a means to address some of the visitation needs of those in custody in a cost-effective way. Video visits may not only help bridge the distance between incarcerated people and their loved ones, but may also expand visiting to include a broader array of people who are unable to make in-person visits. While there has been some controversy around the introduction of video visitation in local jails (with some jail jurisdictions eliminating in-person visits entirely), less is known about the use of the technology in state prison systems. This report examines the current landscape of video visitation in prisons nationwide and offers a detailed case study of the Washington State Department of Corrections, an early adopter.
Family involvement is essential for positive youth outcomes, especially for those youth involved in the juvenile justice system. Family visits, for example, can improve youth behavior during incarceration and are associated with better school performance. In recognition of these facts, Vera partnered with the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at the Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy to publish Identifying, Engaging, and Empowering Families: A Charge for Juvenile Justice Agencies. This paper reviews the literature exploring the relationship between family contact and short- and long-term outcomes for youth in the juvenile justice system. It also identifies ways that agencies, from police through reentry staff, can better engage families and promote both personal contact and active involvement in case assessment, planning, and management.
There are more than 3,000 jails in the United States, holding 731,000 people on any given day—more than the population of Detroit and nearly as many people as live in San Francisco. But there’s more to the story of jail incarceration than just the numbers. In collaboration with media publisher Narratively as part of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge, Vera’s The Human Toll of Jail project aims to shed light on the everyday experiences of those caught up in local justice systems and those tasked with administering them, illustrating not only what’s going wrong, but also how we can do better.
In 2015, the United States Department of Education announced the Second Chance Pell Pilot Program, aimed at supporting postsecondary education programs for people in prison. This program restores eligibility for Pell grants to students in state and federal prisons for the first time since it was eliminated by the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. To support the implementation of new partnerships and strengthen existing ones between colleges and corrections agencies, this fact sheet shares lessons learned from the development and implementation of Vera’s Unlocking Potential: Pathways from Prison to Postsecondary Education national demonstration project, launched in 2012. The lessons in this fact sheet are grouped into three broad areas: developing college-corrections partnerships, ensuring quality in postsecondary education programs, and supporting education post-release. Additional resources can be found on Vera’s Expanding Access to Postsecondary Education online resource center.
This is the final report of the Governor’s Task Force on Sentencing and Recidivism issued in September 2015. It contains consensus recommendations of the Task Force for the consideration of Governor Haslam.
Although jails are the “front door” to mass incarceration, there is not enough data for justice system stakeholders and others to understand how their jail is being used and how it compares with others.
To address this issue, Vera researchers developed a data tool that includes the jail population and jail incarceration rate for every U.S. county that uses a local jail. Researchers merged jail data from two federal data collections—the Bureau of Justice Statistics Annual Survey of Jails and Census of Jails—and incorporated demographic data from the U.S. Census.
The data revealed that, since 1970, the number of people held in jail has increased from 157,000 to 690,000 in 2014—a more than four-fold increase nationwide, with growth rates highest in the smallest counties. This data also reveals wide variation in incarceration rates and racial disparities among jurisdictions of similar size and thus underlines an essential point: The number of people in jail is largely the result of choices made by policymakers and others in the justice system. The Incarceration Trends tool provides any jurisdiction with the appetite for change the opportunity to better understand its history of jail use and measure its progress toward decarceration.
Take a tour of the data tool with Chris Henrichson, who leads the Incarceration Trends project:
In 2005, New Orleans detained more people in its local jail per capita than any other urban jurisdiction in the country. The jail—designed to hold people too great a risk to be released pretrial—was actually used to detain thousands of people too poor to pay a financial bond, with dramatic human and financial consequences. In the 10 years since Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans officials and community leaders have begun to depart from this legacy of over incarceration, leading to a 70 percent reduction in New Orleans’s jail population. This report documents the groundbreaking reforms that the City of New Orleans has engaged in to safely decrease its use of detention, from reducing the physical size of its jail to implementing risk-based pretrial release practices. This text was originally published by the Data Center as part of a series of essays about New Orleans’s progress since Hurricane Katrina.