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Senior Program Associate, Vera California

Vera Institute of Justice

Vera Institute of Justice

Los Angeles, CA, USA
Posted on Saturday, March 4, 2023

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.

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.

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.


Please note this role will report to our Los Angeles office. Vera employees adhere to a hybrid schedule and are in-office on an alternating schedule that generally amounts to 10 days per month.

Compensation and Benefits:

The compensation range for this position is $90,000 - $95,000. Actual salaries will vary depending on factors including but not limited to experience and performance. The salary range listed is just one component of Vera Institute’s total compensation package for employees. As an employer of choice in our field, supporting Vera staff—both personally and professionally—is a priority. To do this, we invest in the well-being of our staff through other rewards including merit pay, generous paid time off, a comprehensive health insurance plan, student loan repayment benefits, professional development training opportunities and up to $2,000 annual for education costs and fees relevant to Vera work, employer-funded retirement plan, and flexible time. To learn more about Vera’s benefits offerings, click here.

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.

In order to ensure a healthy and safe work environment, Vera Institute of Justice is requiring all employees to be fully vaccinated and provide proof of their COVID-19 vaccine before their start date. Employees who cannot receive the vaccine because of a disability/medical contraindication or sincerely-held religious belief may request an accommodation (e.g., an exemption) to this requirement.

Vera is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer. All qualified applicants will be considered for employment without unlawful discrimination based on race, color, creed, national origin, sex, age, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, military status, prior record of arrest or conviction, citizenship status, current employment status, or caregiver status.

Vera works to advance justice, particularly racial justice, in an increasingly multicultural country and globally connected world. We value diverse experiences, including with regard to educational background and justice system contact, and depend on a diverse staff to carry out our mission.

For more information about Vera, please visit www.vera.org