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Program Director, Greater Justice New York (GJNY)

This position is based in our New York office, which is in Industry City, Brooklyn. The person who fills this role will report to Vera’s director of strategy and new initiatives. 


Who we are 

The Vera Institute of Justice, founded in 1961, envisions a society that respects the dignity of every single person and safeguards justice for everyone. Our priorities are to secure equal justice, end mass incarceration, and strengthen families and communities around the country. We are an “inside” lane organization that drives change at scale with committed and ambitious public sector leaders. We work with others who share our vision to tackle the most pressing injustices of our day—from mass criminalization and incarceration, racial disparities, and the loss of public trust in law enforcement, to the unmet needs of the vulnerable, the marginalized, and those harmed by crime and violence. 


Our theory of change is that we leverage our access to government to transform the systems we rely upon for safety, fairness, and justice, working collaboratively with stakeholders across many movements—including advocacy, grasstops, and grassroots organizations. 


We drive change by: 

  • Studying problems that impede human dignity and justice. 
  • Piloting solutions that are at once transformative and achievable. 
  • Engaging diverse communities in informed debate. 
  • Harnessing the power of evidence to drive effective policy and practice. 


Vera has a staff of over 250 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. 


Greater Justice New York 

We are looking for an experienced, seasoned leader to join Vera’s senior management team as the program director of Greater Justice New York (GJNY)


New York State is a microcosm of the landscape of incarceration across our country. Large, urban areas like New York City carry the torch of justice reform while, in contrast, rural, less populated parts of the state—in counties like Chautauqua and Clinton—are overlooked, despite having the highest rates of people in jail and prison and under criminal justice supervision. 


Vera launched Greater Justice New York in 2017 to focus on criminal justice reform not only in New York City but across all of the Empire State. We use research, policy, and advocacy to shine a light on injustices in all aspects of the criminal system—from bail to sentencing, parole, fines and fees, and more—and drive change through piloting innovative solutions, producing evidence, and providing technical assistance. We are heterodox and nimble in our approach to working on these issues across the state, recognizing that local rules and practices are different, county by county, that local culture varies, and what works in one county may not work in another. Our overarching vision is a leaner, fairer, and more effective justice system where incarceration is the last resort, not the default, across all 62 counties of New York State. 


In three years, we have helped to win pretrial legislative reform in Albany; traveled and met with stakeholders in 35 counties outside of New York City to gain a greater understanding of the state’s justice system; played a central role in closing Rikers Island; and produced ground-breaking data and research at the county level on bail, incarceration, parole, and fines and fees. 


These successes are just the beginning of a movement that will place New York at the forefront of ending mass criminalization and mass incarceration in this country. The GJNY team—currently comprised of eight staff from diverse backgrounds of direct services, research, legal practice, and social work—will double down on the research, technical assistance, and expertise needed to truly shrink the footprint of New York’s criminal justice system. We are seeking a leader who can help Vera to shape that vision, direct the work, and deliver to our partners in government, advocacy, and the movement the kind of support needed for transformational change. 


Who you are 

You are passionate about social and racial justice, motivated to drive change, and unafraid to challenge the status quo. You are enthusiastic, collaborative, curious, and kind. You have an extensive and nuanced understanding of New York’s criminal justice system from years of work in New York and are intimately familiar with reform efforts and the many stakeholders in the field—from litigation to legislation, policymaking, direct services, advocacy, and community organizing.  You have experience with--and a visionfor--advocacy and campaigns that strengthen and advance GJNY's work.  You are looking for a senior level opportunity where the challenge of managing a relatively large team and budget, and shaping the future direction of that team’s work, excites you. You enjoy management, from people to ideas, budgets, and relationships. You believe in the value of doing “inside” lane work in partnership—often behind the scenes—with advocates, organizers, and people who are formerly incarcerated and directly impacted by the system. 


In this role, you will: 

  • Be responsible for leading GJNY’s work—from the macro-level vision of what Vera’s role in reforming New York’s criminal justice system should be to the micro-level day-to-day responsibilities of supervision, management, fundraising, relationship-building, and delivering on the work itself. 
  • Serve as Vera’s lead expert on New York’s criminal justice issues and opportunities for reform, both as an internal thought partner to the team and as an external representative to other stakeholders in the field. 
  • Supervise GJNY staff, either directly or indirectly, with an expectation that you invest in their growth, development, skill building, and advancement. 
  • Represent the GJNY team—its needs, priorities, and challenges—to Vera’s senior management and leadership teams. 
  • Be responsible for the management and execution of GJNY’s work in research, writing and publications, projects, partnerships, and other deliverables.
  • Be responsible for the development, design and implementation of advocacy strategies for GJNY campaigns.
  • Manage GJNY’s stakeholder relationships at all levels of government, in New York City, Albany, and across the state, as well as relationships with advocates, community leaders and organizers, and with organizations that work locally and nationally that impact our work in New York. 
  • Share fundraising responsibilities for GJNY with the director of strategy & new initiatives. 
  • Engage in statewide travel to lead GJNY’s work when we conduct trainings and research, provide technical assistance, and participate in meetings and convenings. 


What qualifications do you need? 

  • Most of all, you must be curious and willing to research, read, talk to people, and learn constantly about New York’s dynamic and evolving criminal justice field. You should know how to translate that knowledge into strategic implementation and changes to policy and practice. 
  • You’ll have firsthand and extensive experience with New York’s criminal justice system—as an advocate, practitioner, policymaker, lawyer, researcher, or someone who is directly impacted. 
  • You’ll have experience managing staff—both those who are newer to the work world and those who have more years of experience—and enjoy working with both sets of employees. 
  • You have demonstrated advocacy experience, whether in grasstops, grassroots, membership-based or movement organizations.  You are comfortable working in coalitions or alongside them.
  • You can produce excellent writing in a variety of settings, from longer reports, briefing memos, to media opinions and editorials. 
  • Even if you are not a researcher by training, you are comfortable with data, statistics, and numbers, and can help GJNY staff translate research findings and outcomes for a lay audience. 
  • You are comfortable with public speaking and presenting to diverse audiences—from judges, defense attorneys, to community groups—including people who may be hostile to your point of view. 
  • You feel equally comfortable working with advocates, litigators, and people who are directly impacted by the criminal justice system as you do with government officials, criminal justice system personnel, practitioners, and policymakers. 
  • You are flexible and able to multi-task, prioritize, and manage multiple activities in a fast-paced environment. 
  • You are willing and able to travel extensively, at least 1-2 trips per month. 


When you join our team 

  • You can expect to work with a team of amazing people who have tenacity, are creative, scrappy, and are committed to getting the work done. Why? Because our work is urgent, impactful, and more important than ever. 
  • You can count on doing solutions-oriented and policy-driven work that is innovative, challenging, and fulfilling. We ask difficult questions and entertain unconventional answers so we can reckon with the uncomfortable truths of our work. 
  • You will have excellent benefits and work-life balance. Driving meaningful change is hard work. But we also know that you have a life to live, places to go, and people to see. 


How to apply 

Please submit a cover letter, writing sample, and resume. The cover letter should outline your minimum and additional qualifications and address how you will use those qualifications to excel in the GJNY program director role. The writing sample should be no longer than 5 pages, single-spaced, and should pertain to some aspect of criminal justice reform, preferably in New York. 


Submission online through Vera’s website is preferred. However, if necessary, materials may be mailed or faxed to: 

ATTN: Human Resources / Program Director, Greater Justice New York. 

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 or emails, please. Only applicants selected for interviews will be contacted. 


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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