Data Engineer, In Our Backyards Campaign

Location: New York, NY

Department: Center on Sentencing and Corrections

Type: Full Time

Min. Experience: Mid Level

 Reducing the Use of Jails


The Vera Institute of Justice is working to build national momentum  toward reversing mass incarceration everywhere in America. It’s an ambitious goal—so we’re also building a   skilled team of researchers who like big ideas and big challenges. Does   that sound like you? If so, read on.

In the last decade, the geography of mass incarceration underwent a quiet, dramatic, shift. As incarceration rates in America’s biggest cities leveled out and then declined, rates in small cities and rural America continued to rise. Today, thousands of often overlooked smaller cities, towns, and rural areas have the highest rates of incarceration and, increasingly, the most outsized jails. This untold story calls for ending mass incarceration where it begins—in all of our backyards.

To spark reform, Vera’s In Our Backyards project is advancing an ambitious research and communications agenda to inform the public dialogue and guide change to justice policy and practice. Our work is driven by the realization that if we do not respond to the shifting geography of incarceration, the apparent national gains—driven by prison and jail population declines in large metropolitan areas—will be eroded by deepening problems in the small and rural communities across the country that actually comprise most of the population.


The data engineer will work in close collaboration with the team to collect, manage, and analyze data relevant to the criminal justice system, to visualize the results of these analyses, and to report findings to our partners and the public. Data analysis, data management, and software development will be the primary focus.

This position will join an interdisciplinary, cross-functional team that includes data scientists, policy experts, ethnographers, and writers that span the research, policy, and communications functions at Vera.

What we need in you:

  • Experience assisting with research projects in an academic or professional setting. Our projects involve working with criminal justice system data to answer cutting-edge research questions. Hands-on experience with the research process and intimate familiarity with how to work on a research team are required.
  • Algorithmic reasoning skills. Many of the problems you will solve require devising a step-by-step procedure from a problem statement to a solution. Experience solving such problems is a must.
  • Proficiency in at least one programming language. Your duties will include creating or modifying code that retrieves, maintains, analyses, and visualizes data from the criminal justice system. Experience in Python, MATLAB, or R are preferred, but no language-specific experience is required.
  • Strength in data. Much of the work will involve collecting, cleaning, and maintaining large datasets. Experience working with and managing data are key.
  • Commitment to the missions of racial justice and ending mass incarceration. You need to be fluent in the language of both, and familiar with their relationship to community/public safety.
  • You’re self-motivated, collaborative and look for how you can help without being told. Collaboration is a Vera value – we thrive when we learn and build on each other’s ideas, and are open to giving and receiving feedback. What’s more, it’s absolutely essential for the fast-working In Our Backyards team, which is taking on big challenges, and delving into an area of reform where so much is still unknown.


Candidates must possess these minimum qualifications:

Demonstrated experience in dataset preparation and analysis;

  • Proficiency in at least one programming language;
  • Strong interest or experience in criminal justice and social justice for underserved populations;
  • Ability to work on multiple projects effectively and efficiently, both independently and collaboratively;
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills;
  • A commitment to a collegial and collaborative workplace;

An excellent candidate will have some combination of the following:

  • Experience with database development;
  • Experience developing software;
  • Experience with statistical analysis using Python, MATLAB, Stata, or R.


Salary: Based on experience, and including excellent benefits, Vera believes in compensating its staff members at or above market.

To Apply

Please submit cover letter and resume, and if available, a link to your github portfolio.

No phone calls, please. Only applicants selected for interviews will be contacted.

Online submission in PDF format for cover letter and resume is strongly preferred.

However, if necessary, materials may be mailed or faxed to

ATTN: People and Culture

Vera Institute of Justice

233 Broadway, 12th Fl.

New York, NY 10279

Fax: (212) 941-9407

Please use only one method of submission (online, mail, or fax).

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.

For more information about Vera, please visit



American Jail: The modern tragedy of mass incarceration

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