Ending Mass IncarcerationReducing the Use of Jails

Local Models

Solutions to the problem of bloated jails are within reach. Indeed, a vanguard of reform-minded officials are implementing reforms that others can follow and adapt. We’re working hand-in-hand with many of them.

In New Orleans, where Vera has had a local office since 2008, we’ve helped to expand alternatives to arrest, speed case processing, create pretrial services that change how courts make bail decisions, and most recently, begun to scope alternatives to the web of user fines and fees that in effect criminalize poverty. Our work with individual counties and cities (such as Oklahoma County and Tulsa County, OK and Whatcom County, WA) focuses on more targeted needs and problems and involves partnerships with a wide range of stakeholders, from the judiciary, to criminal justice policy bodies to chambers of commerce. And through the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge, we’re assisting officials in five sites who are committed to downsizing their jails.

Related Work

Broken Ground

Why America Keeps Building More Jails and What It Can Do Instead

Jail construction has vastly expanded America’s capacity to incarcerate people. In 1970, there were 243,000 jail beds in the United States, but by 2017, there were 915,100. This report explores the persistence of jail expansion by examining a convenience sample of 77 counties in 31 states that considered or pursued jail expansion between 2000 and 2 ...

  • Chris Mai, Mikelina Belaineh, Ram Subramanian, Jacob Kang-Brown
November 18, 2019

Series: Eliminating Money Injustice in New Orleans

New Orleans's Road Map to Eliminate Money Injustice

A conversation with Paid in Full co-author Alison Shih

7. We can’t wait! Any closing words? This work is pretty amazing, because not only does it have the potential to completely change the community that I live in right now, but as the rest of the nation is really gearing up and moving in this direction, it has the potential to influence other cities and states. Historically the issue of money injust ...

Blog Post
  • Vera Institute  of Justice
    Vera Institute of Justice
June 13, 2019
Blog Post

Report to Whatcom County Stakeholders on Jail Reduction Strategies

Between 1970 and 2014, the number of people in jail in Whatcom County grew almost ninefold—from 45 to 391 on any given day—while the overall county population only grew two-and-a-half times. With the county’s jail population surging, local government leaders, justice system practitioners, and community members became increasingly concerned about th ...

  • Elizabeth Swavola, Kristi Riley, Vedan Anthony-North, Stephen Roberts
November 30, 2017

Jail in New York City

Evidence-Based Opportunities for Reform

Jail in New York City: Evidence-Based Opportunities for Reform examines the key decision points within New York City’s criminal justice system that drive people into the jail. The report uses rich data on case processing, pretrial decision-making, bail decisions, and case disposition to understand how decision makers can impact the size of the jail ...

  • Michael Rempel, Ashmini Kerodal, Joseph Spadafore, Chris Mai
March 24, 2017