Vera Institute of Justice Receives $4 Million from Google to Help Launch In Our Backyards
Date:  12-01-2017

Vera seeks to uncover the driving forces behind the rapid growth of incarceration in small cities and rural areas
From Vera Intitute of Justice:

Progress towards ending mass incarceration is underway in America’s urban centers. But research from the Vera Institute of Justice (Vera) shows an unexpected shift in the geography of incarceration: America’s most outsized jails are now in the least populous areas, which means we will only undo mass incarceration by focusing energy and attention beyond cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Houston. To drive that effort, Vera today launched In Our Backyards, an expansive initiative supported by a $4 million grant from as part of its Racial Justice and Inclusion work.

Through In Our Backyards, the Vera team will uncover what has been driving the rapid growth of incarceration over the past two decades in the thousands of smaller cities and towns that account for nearly half of the country’s population. Vera will use data and analysis in partnership with local communities, governments, and advocates to reverse this trend. While small cities and smaller towns have never been at the center of the conversation about mass incarceration, they now bear increasingly heavier burdens. It is time to shift our understanding of mass incarceration from a problem that only resides in big cities to a challenge that now touches every community in America. We must expand our view of whose problem it is, and who has an interest in solving it.

In 2015, Vera launched Incarceration Trends with the support of the Robert Wilson Charitable Trust and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. This first-in-kind data tool meticulously pieced together 45 years of jail data for nearly every American county and revealed this shifting incarceration problem. It showed that while urban jail populations have fallen, rural and small city jail populations are still growing—even as “red,” “blue,” and “purple” states across the country are taking steps to reduce the size of their prison populations. The highest incarceration rates are now far from big cities and their surrounding suburbs. Continue reading >>>