Vera Institute of Justice

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Vera Institute of Justice
Motto"To drive change. To urgently build and improve justice systems that ensure fairness, promote safety, and strengthen communities."
Founder(s)Louis Schweitzer
Herb Sturz
  • "Closing Mass Incarceration's Front Door"[1]
  • "Promoting Safety, Trust, and Justice in a Diverse America"[1]
  • "Transforming the Conditions of Confinement"[1]
PresidentNicholas Turner
BudgetRevenue: $140,497,043
Expenses: $129,597,303
(FYE June 2019)[2]
Address34 35th Street, Suite 4-2A, Brooklyn, New York 11232

The Vera Institute of Justice (originally the Vera Foundation) is an independent nonprofit national research and policy organization in the United States, and a leader in criminal justice research.[3] It was founded in 1961 in New York City. Its stated goal is "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."[4]


Philanthropist Louis Schweitzer created the Vera Foundation—named after his mother—in New York City in 1961, after being told by a friend that 2,000 boys had been in a Brooklyn jail for over 10 months, waiting for trial. Initially, Schweitzer intended to lend bail money to those too poor to afford it. Instead, with Herbert Sturz as executive director, and with the help of the New York University School of Law, they began the Manhattan Bail Project, which supplied judges with defendant background information and recommendations as to whether to release without bond. In a three-year experiment, thousands were released and only a small number failed to appear for trial. New York City officially adopted the process in 1964.[5] Eventually, the model devised by Vera was adopted in many municipalities across the United States.[citation needed] It led to the Bail Reform Act of 1966, signed by US President Lyndon B. Johnson, who called the Vera Institute's work an example of what "one man's outrage against injustice” could accomplish.[5] It was the most significant reform of the bail system in America since 1789.[citation needed]

The Vera Foundation became the Vera Institute of Justice in 1966, with Burke Marshall, a former United States Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, as chairman of the board, to administer a $1.1 million grant from the Ford Foundation.[5]

Funding and support[edit]

In 1966, the Vera Institute of Justice received assistance from the Ford Foundation to turn the foundation into a private nonprofit organization.[6]

The MacArthur Foundation awarded the Vera Institute $15,601,707 between 1989 and 2021, including 20 grants in Criminal Justice and Juvenile Justice.[7]

In March 2022, the Vera Institute of Justice received a $171.7 million government contract (that could reach as high as $983 million if the contract is extended to March 2027) to provide unaccompanied migrant children legal assistance.[8]

Prison commission[edit]

The Vera Institute of Justice organized the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons, to study issues relating to prison violence and abuse. The commission was co-chaired by former US Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach and former judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, John Joseph Gibbons.[9] On June 8, 2006, the commission released its report to the US Congress recommending more attention be given to address problems of violence, insufficient mental health treatment, and health care in prisons. At a broader level, the commission criticized US policy towards incarceration as costly and ineffective.[10]


  1. ^ a b c "Our Strategic Priorities". Vera Institute of Justice. Archived from the original on 2021-05-02. Retrieved 2021-05-02.
  2. ^ "Vera Institute of Justice, Inc" (PDF). Foundation Center. Retrieved 24 April 2017.
  3. ^ Barkan, Ross (Dec 18, 2022). "The Data That Shows Progressives Can Win on Crime Prevention". New York Magazine. Retrieved Sep 29, 2023.
  4. ^ "About Us". Vera Institute of Justice. Archived from the original on 2 May 2016. Retrieved 27 April 2016.
  5. ^ a b c Johnston, Laurie (Sep 21, 1971). "Louis J. Schweitzer Dead; Founder of Vera Institute". New York Times. Retrieved Sep 29, 2023.
  6. ^ "Mission and Origins". Vera Institute of Justice. Archived from the original on 2006-06-14. Retrieved 2006-06-15.
  7. ^ "Vera Institute of Justice". MacArthur Foundation. Retrieved Oct 1, 2023.
  8. ^ Schoffstall, Joe (2022-07-12). "Liberal group lands $171M gov't contract that could reach $1B to help illegal immigrants avoid deportation". Fox News. Retrieved 2022-07-17.
  9. ^ "Mission". Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons.
  10. ^ Slevin, Peter (June 8, 2006). "U.S. Prison Study Faults System and the Public". The Washington Post.

External links[edit]