Vera Institute of Justice,

Senior Program Associate, Vera California

16 days ago
Employment type
Closing date

About this organization

Who we are:

The Vera Institute of Justice, founded in 1961, is a nonprofit criminal justice organization that strives to build just government institutions and safe communities free from the scourge of racism, white supremacy, profit, and inequity that is pervasive in this country’s legal systems. We are an “inside” lane organization that drives change at scale with ambitious public sector leaders who share our commitment to building anti-racist, reparative systems that deliver justice. We leverage our access to government to transform these systems and work collaboratively with stakeholders across many movements—including advocacy, grassroots, and grasstop organizations. Our role is to pilot solutions that are transformative and achievable, harness the power of evidence to drive effective policy and practice, and use advocacy and communications to change narratives and norms.

Vera has a staff of 300 people and offices in New York City, Washington, DC, Los Angeles, and New Orleans. We are an equal opportunity employer with a commitment to diversity in the workplace. We expect our staff to embody respect, independence, collaboration, commitment, anti-racism, and equity—both in our outward-facing work and the internal culture of our workplace. We value a range of experiences in people’s educational backgrounds and encourage people who have been directly impacted by the criminal justice system to apply.

About this job

Vera California:

Vera California is a portfolio of work focused exclusively on making change in the state of California. We aim to spark momentum for decarceration and investments in the long-underfunded community-based systems of care that promote safety and wellness. We use data and policy analysis to drive concrete change and center racial equity. We bring expertise on best practices from around the country to local conversations in California. We collaborate with government leaders and community partners on policy development and implementation, working together toward a new vision of safety, wellness, and racial justice for all Californians.

Who you are:

As the Senior Program Associate, you will work with the Vera California team, growing this portfolio of work with us from the ground floor. You will support the programmatic needs of campaigns working to shape state and local policy and practice around jail decarceration, pretrial reform, justice reinvestment, and more. This will entail synthesizing data and research; building and managing relationships; contributing to working groups, presentations, and trainings; and developing practical tools and written materials for communities.

Ideally, you want to work towards a vision of community safety that shifts away from incarceration as the default response and instead is rooted in public health and care. You have experience with and a basic understanding of the criminal legal system, centering a care-first approach in discussions around decarceration, alternatives to incarceration, and the way the money bail system impacts pretrial incarceration. You have some familiarity with decarcerative efforts in California, whether that be litigation, legislation, advocacy, and/or community organizing.

The idea of working with a team of people who come from diverse backgrounds and perspectives inspires you. You love to work collaboratively but also are comfortable operating solo. Importantly, you care deeply about racial equity in your work and with your colleagues.

Roles & responsibilities

What you'll do:

Policy Development

Work with the Vera California Program Director and team to research, develop, and draft model policies, fact sheets, and educational materials on decarceration, justice reinvestment, and bail reform to be used by Vera and with external partners

Assist in training and technical assistance for our partners and external stakeholders on best practices and policy analysis


Develop and maintain relationships with government actors, elected officials, community groups, and advocates

Help to drive the creation and presentation of communications materials—like blog posts, PowerPoints, or talking points—for a variety of settings and diverse audiences

Research & Publications

Develop and expand Vera’s California-specific expertise on decarceration, justice reinvestment, etc. by researching and contributing to publications, connecting with other experts in the field, and engaging in local and national discussions


Provide leadership, support, and guidance to a growing team, as needed


Develop and author publications and policy briefs; appear in convenings, webinars, etc. on Vera California’s behalf


What qualifications are we looking for?

A minimum of 4 - 7 years of professional experience involving the criminal legal system, with a preference for work in California

Professional work or life experience with research and/or writing, technical assistance, and building contacts and connections

A demonstrated commitment to racial justice

You can work both independently and cooperatively with others as a member of a team

You are able to work effectively with a diverse array of people and positions, including advocates, government officials, criminal legal system personnel, practitioners, and people who are directly impacted by the criminal system

You are curious and willing to research, read, learn continuously, and be energized by the idea of translating that knowledge into strategic implementation and concrete outcomes. If it excites you to spend time on the ground (or virtually), observing bail hearings and arraignments, talking to people in the field, researching things like legislative history, and developing and rolling out new ideas, this job is for you.

You can quickly produce excellent writing in a variety of settings, from longer reports, briefing memos, to media opinions and editorials

You are interested in presenting to diverse audiences from judges, defense attorneys, prosecutors, to community groups, including people who may be hostile to your point of view

You are flexible and able to multi-task, prioritize, and manage multiple activities in a fast-paced environment


Lived experience as a person directly impacted by the criminal-legal and/or immigration system

Knowledge, Skills, & Abilities you'll bring:

Excellent writing and communication skills

Experience developing and managing issue area campaigns and building diverse coalitions

Experience drafting legislation and with legislative lobbying

Communications acumen, including experience as a spokesperson and experience developing media strategy to support campaign efforts

Ability to build partnerships with grassroots and grasstops collaborators, working across lines of identity and power

Ability to work collaboratively with a national, remote team

Proficiency with Microsoft Office Suite

Familiarity and comfort with data, a plus

Ability to travel 5 – 10% of the time

Technical knowledge we need you prepared to use:

Zoom, PowerPoint, Microsoft Office Suite, Google, etc.

To apply

Please submit your resume and cover letter via the job post link.

Applications may also be faxed to:

ATTN: People Resources / Senior Program Associate, Vera CA

Vera Institute of Justice

34 35th St, Suite 4-2A, Brooklyn, NY 11232

Fax: (212) 941-9407

Please use only one method (online, mail or fax) of submission.

No phone calls, please. Only applicants selected for interviews will be contacted.

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