Director of Criminal Legal System Research

Director of Criminal Legal System Research

Vera Institute of Justice

Brooklyn, NY (preferred) or Washington, DC   |   August 31, 2021

About Vera Institute of Justice

The Vera Institute of Justice is a nonprofit national research and independent policy organization founded in 1961. Vera envisions a society that respects the dignity of every person and safeguards justice for everyone. Vera is committed to securing equal justice, ending mass incarceration, and strengthening families and communities.

Throughout its 60-year history, Vera has produced trusted data and analysis and developed a strong reputation as the field’s analytic backbone, with expertise spanning the breadth of the justice system. Vera is unique in our ability to incubate innovative ideas grounded in solid research, and then scale up the most effective approaches nationally. We incorporate racial equity into all that we do: assessing our work’s potential impact on people of color, designing our initiatives to combat racism, and tracking outcomes by race.

Vera has recently embarked on ambitious strategy to extend our impact, elevating our research and growing three key capacities:

  • SOLUTIONS: Developing, piloting, evaluating, and scaling the next generation of cutting-edge ideas by establishing an innovative internal incubation pipeline that is designed to source, test, and scale new solutions
  • ADVOCACY: Influencing leaders to adopt more just policies through enhanced advocacy efforts, including the creation of a new 501c4 organization, Vera Action
  • COMMUNICATIONS: Significantly increasing public engagement with our work through creative and influential communications strategies

Vera works with others in government and the community who share our vision to tackle the most pressing injustices of our day, from mass 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.

Vera is an equal opportunity employer with a commitment to diversity in the workplace, specifically, Vera values diverse experiences regarding educational background and justice system contact. Vera hires employees that reflect their values: respect, independence, collaboration, and commitment.

At Vera, 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 their work is urgent, impactful, and more important than ever.

For more information on Vera Institute of Justice, please visit

The Opportunity

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 Vera’s Research Leadership Team. As the most senior researcher focusing on criminal legal issues, they 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 are core components of initiatives across the institute. The director will work across Vera’s criminal legal initiatives, mentoring researchers, ensuring the quality of research plans and products, supporting the development of research strategies, and guiding the design and implementation of early stage initiatives.

The use of data to inform policy and drive change is at the core of Vera’s approach to reform. More than 60 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. As a leader within the research department, the Director of Criminal Legal System Research will partner with other members of the leadership team to support and guide this work, 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.

Candidate Profile

The following offers an aspirational view of the ideal candidate profile; we encourage applications from candidates with a wide range of experiences and backgrounds, especially those from historically marginalized groups. While no candidate will bring every qualification desired, the details provided below are representative of the knowledge and skills Vera is seeking for this important hire.

Key responsibilities of the Director of Criminal Legal System Research, among others:

  • Supporting the development of research strategies and materials for new initiatives
    • Working in partnership with senior communications and advocacy staff, as well as other research leaders, to develop initiatives that adopt multiple strategies toward national impact
    • Guiding the development of theories of change that leverage research to shift practices and norms at the national level
    • Working with MEL staff to develop evaluation plans for initiatives
    • In some cases, leading the development of early stage initiatives
  • Providing support, supervision, and mentorship to researchers working on criminal legal projects
    • Supervising and supporting researchers to design studies and collect evidence that addresses the key drivers of racism and inequity within criminal legal systems
    • Providing mentorship and methodological guidance to early career and experienced, doctoral-level researchers
    • Developing study designs, reviewing research materials, and supporting professional development
  • Providing methodological and substantive guidance to researchers organization-wide, based on areas of individual expertise (e.g. statistical analysis, participatory research)
    • Acting as an internal and external subject-matter expert/spokesperson for Vera’s research
    • Providing mentorship and supporting skill development of researchers
    • Authoring and overseeing development of reports and other publications
  • Serving as a member of the research leadership team and supporting the development and implementation of research policies and strategies
    • Informing the development and implementation of research strategies that center the experiences of those who are most directly impacted by criminal legal and immigration systems
    • Developing research training initiatives
    • Working with other members of the research leadership team to support equity initiatives
    • Participating in annual planning and budget development for the research department and in support of individual teams
Desired Skills, Qualities, and Characteristics

Strong candidates will 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. You have extensive experience developing and leading applied research on the criminal legal and/or immigration systems.

Strong candidates will bring a diverse set of skills, characteristics, and experiences, both professional and lived. Vera Institute of Justice and Koya strive to mitigate inherent biases that influence hiring practices by focusing on a holistic view of potential candidates and understanding that no single candidate will offer every desired skill and characteristic.

  • Lived experience and/or demonstrated commitment to using research and analysis to address issues of racism and inequity in the criminal legal system
  • Graduate degree in a social science, public policy, law and society, or related interdisciplinary field; Ph.D. preferred
  • 8+ years developing, conducting, and managing research on the criminal legal system required
  • Experience advising, mentoring, and supporting researchers
  • Excellent written and oral communications skills
  • Demonstrated ability and interest in communicating research findings to wide-ranging audiences, including policy-makers, journalists, and members of the public
  • Fundraising experience preferred
Compensation & Benefits

Vera believes in compensating its staff members at or above market. Compensation for this position will start at an annual base salary of $170,000 and includes an excellent benefits package and work-life balance. Driving meaningful change is hard work, but Vera also knows that you have a life, places to go, and people to see.

Vera invests in the betterment of its employees, and offers student loan repayment benefits and covers fees relevant to Vera work, up to $2,000 for education costs. They offer benefit programs like Health Insurance, Dental Insurance, Flexible Spending Account (FSA), Vision Insurance, Health Savings Account (HSA), Life Insurance, Supplemental Life Insurance, Disability Insurance, Employee Assistance Program, Gym Membership, and Tuition Assistance to their its employees.


Molly Brennan and Shelby Woods of Koya Partners have been exclusively retained for this search. To express your interest in this role please submit your materials here or email Molly and Shelby at [email protected]. All inquiries and discussions will be considered strictly confidential.


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.

About Koya Partners

Koya Partners, a part of the Diversified Search Group, is a leading executive search and strategic advising firm dedicated to connecting exceptionally talented people with mission-driven clients. Our founding philosophy—The Right Person in the Right Place Can Change the World—guides our work as we partner with nonprofits & NGOs, institutions of higher education, responsible businesses, and social enterprises in local communities and around the world.

At Koya, we don’t just accept difference—we celebrate it, support it, and thrive on it for the benefit of our team, our clients, and the communities we serve.

Koya is an equal opportunity employer fully committed to creating an environment and team that represents a variety of backgrounds, perspectives, styles, and experiences. We encourage all to apply because we believe a diversity of voices leads to better discussions, decisions, and outcomes for everyone. Koya does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, age, sexual orientation, military status, veteran status, genetic information, gender identity, or any other characteristic protected by applicable federal, state, or local law. For more information about Koya Partners, visit