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Initiative Director, Beyond Jails

Vera Institute of Justice

Vera Institute of Justice

Los Angeles, CA, USA · Washington, DC, USA
Posted on Wednesday, September 6, 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.

Who you are:
In order to reduce the nation’s dependence on jails, as the leader of the Beyond Jails team, you will lead the efforts in working in jurisdictions across the country to shift resources to community-driven solutions in order to help people thrive. As the Initiative Director, you will lead Vera’s Beyond Jails work, which has three (3) core strategies: statewide advocacy campaigns and coalition building to create lasting policy change; pilot and build evidence around decarceration strategies; and building will for change in jurisdictions. While managing a team of 10 – 12 Verans, as the Initiative Director, you will partner with local government and community partners to develop plans for jail decarceration plans and programming, prevent the construction of new jails, and design reinvestment strategies.

What you'll do:

Strategic Management

  • Serve as the Beyond Jails initiative lead, executing and refining the team strategy for impact in the states in which we are working, and elevating the work at a national level
  • Manage and operationalize various components of the team’s strategy -- including state legislative advocacy, site-based technical assistance, and research – and ensure cohesion of workstreams
  • In partnership with Vera’s Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) unit, develop and measure metrics to discern impact of the established strategy and near-term milestones
  • Work closely with Vera’s Research, Communications, and Advocacy capacity teams to support the development and execution of the Beyond Jails strategy

Communication Deliverables

  • Lead the day-to-day messaging and narrative strategies around bail reform, pretrial justice, and other issues related to reducing reliance on jails
  • Draft and edit program reports, proposals, presentations, and internal / external blog posts to communicate updates on Beyond Jails’ work over time
  • Present on Vera’s work at conferences, over webinars, and throughout other external events

Operations Leadership

  • Partner with the Development team to accomplish fundraising goals and support funder-relationship management, proposal creation, and reporting deadlines
  • Manage all elements of the team’s operations, including budget, deadlines, staff deployment, and team performance
  • Maintain regular contact with the fiscal department to develop, track, and manage budgets

Team Building, Mentorship, and Supervision

  • Oversee and own the overall development of the staff, including professional development, goal setting, and elements of accountability, aligned with Vera’s commitment to anti-racism and REI efforts.
  • Supervise leaders on the team across operations, site work, and communications or campaign elements, ensuring that they execute efficiently with a propensity for learning

Other duties as required

What qualifications are we looking for?

  • Advanced degree + 12 – 15 years of relevant experience in public policy or law, justice, social impact. In lieu of a degree, applicable work or life experience may be considered.
  • Strong advocacy experience; demonstrable knowledge of how to run campaigns that use a combination advocacy, strategic communications, research, and technical assistance to drive change in complex ecosystems
  • Subject matter expertise in bail reform, pretrial services, and other issues related to reducing reliance on jails
  • At least 3+ years of management experience, directly supervising staff
  • Commitment to Vera’s mission to end the overcriminalization and mass incarceration of people of color, immigrants, and people experiencing poverty


  • Direct experience in justice reform and applied research
  • Administrative experience in budget development and management
  • Experience working with funders and important partners
  • Ability to work in diverse jurisdictions, including rural areas and small cities

Knowledge, Skills, & Abilities you'll bring:

  • Excellent research and communication skills, both written and oral
  • Ability to work independently and as a member of several different project teams
  • Ability and willingness to travel – up to 25% of the time
  • Passion for social justice for communities historically oppressed by the criminal legal system
  • Excellent strategic, program-solving, and analytic skills
  • Experience and comfort with social science, legal research, and critical race theory


Please note this role will report to any of our four (4) Vera offices; this includes Brooklyn, NY, Los Angeles, CA, Washington, DC, and New Orleans, LA. 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 $154,000 - $157,000 per year. 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 / Initiative Director, Beyond Jails
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