Senior Program Associate (Legislative), Vera California (Sacramento, CA)

Los Angeles, CA
Full Time
Vera California

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 grassroots 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 almost 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:

The Senior Program Associate (SPA) will work with the entire Vera CA Team to advance our legislative agenda and campaigns working to shape state and local policy and practice around decarceration, pretrial reform, budget justice, and more. Ideally, you have done legislative work in California, or you have knowledge of the legislative system in California and 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. You are passionate about social and racial justice, motivated to drive change, and unafraid to challenge the status quo. The idea of working on a team of people who come from diverse backgrounds and perspectives inspires you. This is a full-time position based in California; must be able to be in Sacramento frequently.

Responsibilities include, but are not limited to:

Legislative & Policy Development

  • Contribute to the development and refinement of Vera CA’s legislative strategy.
  • Serve as a primary point of contact for state agencies, legislators, and CA-based advocacy groups to promote the advancement Vera CA’s legislative goals.
  • Partner with the Vera California Program Director and team to research, develop, and draft model policies, fact sheets, and educational materials on decarceration, budget justice, and bail reform to be used by Vera and with external partners.
  • Analyze and track pending legislation, executive orders, and regulations related to the criminal-legal and immigration systems; follow relevant state committee hearings and mark-ups.
  • Analyze bills, executive orders and regulations related to Vera CA’s priority issues.
  • Track and relay legislative progress and relevant information on Vera CA’s policy priorities to colleagues and partners in a timely, clear and action-oriented format. 
  • Contribute to the training and technical assistance for our partners and external stakeholders on best practices and policy analysis.


  • Draft and develop public comment and testimony for legislators and state agencies.
  • Develop and maintain relationships with government actors, elected officials, community groups, and advocates; and
  • Involved in driving the creation and presentation of communications materials including blog posts, PowerPoints, or talking points—for a variety of settings and diverse audiences.

Strategic Planning

  • Lead strategic planning sessions with the Vera CA team to develop a state policy agenda and priorities.
  • Serve as an expert and thought partner on strategies and tactics to advance Vera CA’s policy priorities.
  • Support, develop ideas, and organize state briefings, meetings, and events involving high-level state and non-governmental participants and stakeholders to highlight Vera CA’s work.

Research & Publications

  • Develop and expand Vera’s California-specific expertise on decarceration, budget justice, 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 do you need?


  • Experience researching and analyzing state policy and legislation, particularly related to criminal legal reform and/or immigration justice, with a preference for work in California’s criminal legal system
  • Familiarity with the California legislative process and related advocacy
  • Ability to engage broad networks and build partnerships to advance Vera CA’s legislative agenda.
  • Ability to work effectively with a diverse array of people and positions, including lobbyists, advocates, government officials, criminal legal system personnel, practitioners, and people who are directly impacted by the criminal system.
  • 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. 
  • Skilled communicator, collaborator, team player who takes initiative.
  • A demonstrated commitment to racial justice.
  • Excellent writing and communication skills;
  • Experiencedeveloping and managing issue area campaigns and building/driving legislative agendas;
  • 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, including virtually;
  • Proficiency with Microsoft Office Suite;
  • Familiarity and comfort with data a plus.


  • Bachelors degree + 4-7 years of relevant experience.  In lieu of degree requirement, applicable work or life experience may be considered.
  • Lived experience as a person directly impacted by the criminal-legal and/or immigration systems

List of Required Software Applications:

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

Compensation and Benefits

The compensation range for this position is $90,600 - $94,800. 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 and remote work schedules. To learn more about Vera’s benefits offerings, click here.

Applications may also be faxed to:

ATTN: People Resources / Senior Program Associate (Legislative), Vera California
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.

As a federal contractor, and 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


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