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Director of Criminal Legal System Research

Organizational Overview

At the Vera Institute of Justice, our vision is of a society that respects the dignity of every person and safeguards justice for all. At a propitious moment for justice reform, we are standing up and driving change on a variety of fronts -- ending mass incarceration, vastly improving life behind bars, ensuring that immigrants get due process, ending cash bail and centering racial equity in all this work. Changing the way people think and act in order to serve justice is in our DNA. Since 1961, we’ve leveraged our access and influence with government partners and worked collaboratively with community stakeholders to transform the systems we rely on for safety and justice:

  • We study problems that impede human dignity and justice.
  • We pilot solutions that are at once transformative and achievable.
  • We engage diverse communities in informed debate.
  • We harness the power of evidence to drive effective policy and practice.

Vera has 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 hire employees that reflect our values: respect, independence, collaboration, commitment, and race equity. We encourage applications from Black, Indigenous, and people of color. People with disabilities are also encouraged to apply. If you want to learn more about life at Vera click here.

Research at Vera

The use of data to inform policy and drive change is at the core of Vera’s approach to reform. More than 50 researchers working across the institute use a range of methods and approaches to address some of the most pressing social justice issues of our time; from the drivers of mass incarceration, to the unmet need for legal representation for immigrants, to the racism and inequity that undercut American policing and prosecution. Increasingly, we are using participatory methods and other inclusive strategies to ensure that our analysis reflects, and is informed by, the perspectives of those who are most directly impacted by U.S. criminal legal and immigration systems.

What you’ll do

Reporting to the Vice President for Research and Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning (MEL), the Director of Criminal Legal System Research is a senior level position and a member of the Research Leadership Team. As the most senior researcher focusing on criminal legal issues, you will partner with the Vice President for Research and MEL, the Director of Immigration Research, senior researchers and initiative directors to ensure that research, evidence, and knowledge production is a core component of initiatives across the institute. As a leader within the research department, you will support researchers working across Vera’s initiatives, act as a spokesperson for research externally, and ensure that Vera’s research and analysis is of the highest quality and reflects the Institute’s core values of respect, independence, collaboration, commitment, and racial equity.  You may lead the design and implementation of early stage initiatives. 

Specific responsibilities include, but are not limited to:

  • Support, supervise, and mentor researchers working on criminal legal projects:
    • Supervise and support researchers to design studies and collect evidence that addresses the key drivers of racism and inequity within criminal legal systems
    • Provide mentorship and methodological guidance to early career and experienced, doctoral-level researchers
    • Develop study designs, review research materials, and support professional development
  • Develop research strategies and materials for new initiatives:
    • Guide the development of theories of change that leverage research to shift practices and norms at the national level
    • Work in partnership with senior communications and advocacy staff, as well as other research leaders, to develop initiatives that adopt multiple strategies toward national impact strategies 
    • Work with MEL staff to develop evaluation plans for initiatives 
    • In some cases, lead the development of early-stage initiatives 
  • Serve as a member of the research leadership team and support the development and implementation of research policies and strategies 
    • Inform the development and implementation of research strategies that center the experiences of those who are most directly impacted by criminal legal and immigration systems
    • Develop research training initiatives 
    • Work with other members of the research leadership team to support equity initiatives 

Who you are

You take initiative, and thrive in a fast-paced, entrepreneurial environment. In everything you do, you exhibit a core commitment to racial justice. You value partnership, and have excellent writing, organizational, and communication skills.

The successful candidate will bring the following skills, personal and professional experience and competencies:

  • Lived experience and/or demonstrated commitment to using research and analysis to address issues of racism and inequity in the criminal legal system 
  • Extensive experience developing and leading applied research on the criminal legal and/or immigration systems
  • Collaboration skills and experience advising, mentoring, and supporting researchers 
  • Written and oral communications skills
  • A demonstrated ability and interest in communicating research findings to wide-ranging audiences, including policy-makers, journalists, and members of the public
  • Graduate degree in a social science, public policy, law and society, or related interdisciplinary field
  • 10+ years developing, conducting and managing research on the criminal legal system required
  • Fundraising experience preferred


We believe in compensating our staff members at or above market. Compensation is commensurate with experience and includes competitive benefits.

How to apply

Please submit a cover letter and resume. Applications will be considered on a rolling basis until the position is filled. Online submission in PDF format is preferred. However, if necessary, materials may be mailed or faxed to:


ATTN: People Resources / Director of Criminal Legal Research

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.


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 or current employment 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. People who have been directly impacted by the criminal legal or immigration systems are encouraged to apply.


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