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Sociologist Named Director of Vera Institute

Michael P. Jacobson, John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the City University of New York-Graduate Center, was named the next director of the Vera Institute of Justice in New York City, a private, nonprofit organization that develops innovations in the justice system, assists government officials in New York and around the world, and conducts justice-related research.

Jacobson, who earned his doctoral degree from CUNY-Graduate Center, started his new position in mid-January. He specializes in urban sociology and criminal justice, particularly in the areas of financial issues, technology initiatives, multi-agency operations, and victims’ rights. He is the former New York City Commissioner of Correction and Probation and was New York’s Correction Commissioner from 1995 to 1998 and Probation Commissioner from 1992 to 1996.

As Correction Commissioner, he oversaw an annual budget of more than $775 million, a uniformed and civilian workforce of about 13,000, and an inmate population of more than 125,000 admitted yearly. During his tenure as Probation Commissioner, he was responsible for that Department’s $69-million annual budget, 1,600 employees, and 97,000 probationers yearly.

Vera’s projects include efforts to serve troubled and delinquent youth at home instead of in juvenile institutions, reduce violence against women, help state leaders develop affordable and humane sentencing policies, and strengthen police-community relations.

Sociological Advantage

“The sociologist part of me is extremely helpful at Vera for developing program design and other elements of research,” said Jacobson. “A huge amount of the work that I do is partnering with the government and providing assistance in developing criminal justice program. My criminal justice and sociology background give me a great base on which to provide that assistance.”

At the announcement of Jacobson’s appointment as the fourth director in Vera’s 43-year history, Fredrick A.O. Schwarz, Jr., chair of Vera’s Board of Trustees, said “I know that under his leadership Vera will continue to be on the leading edge of justice reform.”

“I’m tremendously excited by the opportunity to lead this unique organization and look forward to working with all our government partners at the local, state, and federal levels,” Jacobson said. “As policymakers around the country struggle with the important and complex issues of corrections, sentencing, policing, and juvenile and family justice during an era of declining resources, Vera will be poised to help them develop policies and programs that serve the public in a just and humane way.”

ASA Executive Officer Sally Hillsman is also on the Vera Institute Board of Trustees and is a former Associate Director of the Institute. “Jacobson’s sociology and criminology background are important elements in managing Vera’s program development and research and in working with leaders in government and civil society to improve the services people rely on for safety and justice,” said Hillsman.

Jacobson is the author of Downsizing Prisons: How to Reduce Crime and End Mass Incarceration. He succeeds Christopher Stone, Vera’s director for the past 10 years, who will head the criminal justice program at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.