Vera Institute of Justice Restores Promise for Incarcerated Young Adults

By Rachel Leber

NEW YORK — The Vera Institute of Justice in New York and the South Carolina Department of Corrections (DOC) recently partnered on a program that seeks to transform living conditions for incarcerated young adults in the U.S. The program, dubbed the Restoring Promise Initiative, is a program that the Vera Institute works hard to incorporate into multiple state and local corrections agencies throughout the country.

The Restoring Promise Initiative is designed to serve inmates between the ages of 18 to 25, with four central goals at its core — “to create safety, strengthen communities, facilitate healing and advance equity,” according to a recent statement from the Vera Institute of Justice. The focus of the program on this particular age group comes from the knowledge that ages 18 to 24 comprise 21 percent of those admitted into adult prison every year, according to the Vera Institute’s program page.

As such, the program seeks to provide a new practice model for incarcerated young adults that “prioritizes family engagement, self-expression, peer support, personal growth and development, education and career readiness,” according to the organization’s website.

The Vera Institute announced its new partnership with the South Carolina DOC in January 2018, making it the third state to partner with the institute on this particular program. The Connecticut DOC was the first state to partner for this program, with the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Office (MSO) in Massachusetts being the second.

“The criminal justice system in the U.S. has long prioritized punishment and isolation over accountability and restoration — a method that has failed to yield positive results on every measure of safety and community wellness,” said Alexandra Frank, senior associate in Vera’s Center on Youth Justice, in a recent statement. “Our work with Restoring Promise has already demonstrated that applying a participatory and restorative justice framework that ingrained systemic challenges results in sustainable change for people who live and work in prisons as well as their families and communities.”

The Restoring Promise Initiative is just one of many projects that the Vera Institute for Justice is responsible for initiating. The Vera Institute is currently working on close to 60 projects in 40 states throughout the U.S. seeking to advance research, analyze policy, pilot programs and implement solutions, as related to mass incarceration, racial disparities and much more.