Portraits of Leadership

Vera Institute of Justice confronts COVID-19

Hyperakt’s new interview series hands the mic to nonprofit and cultural leaders around the nation as they guide their organizations through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Today we’re talking with Nick Turner, President & Director of the Vera Institute of Justice. Based in Brooklyn, Vera works to urgently build and improve justice systems that ensure fairness, promote safety, and strengthen communities.

From your vantage point, what stories are not being told about the impact of the Coronavirus?

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The stories that are going unspoken are mostly about immigrant communities, mixed status families, and the undocumented. There’s general silence or ignorance about the plight of people in detention, the fact that some immigration courts are conducting business as usual, and the fact that many immigrants do not benefit — in fact are carved out — from the federal relief bill.

How have you needed to change how your staff works or the way you deliver services in order to meet the new reality?

The disease has huge implications for the people Vera serves — our agenda to end overcriminalization and mass incarceration is now acutely a life or death agenda.

My team has swung into doing what we can to get the police to stop arresting, ICE to stop raids, jails and prisons to release people, etc. Third, while we don’t know what the other side looks like, we know that when the pandemic and economic free-fall ends, we will be in a new reality. We are trying to imagine what that is like and what it means for our work, our ability to have traction, and our ability to raise resources.

What gives you hope in this moment?

I don’t see “hope” as some flimsy, ethereal concept. I understand hope as a discipline and practice — it is a thing that you work to retain and hold onto. It takes work. I see that work happening, and I believe that as hard as things are now, we will emerge better on the other side.

Explore Vera’s work at Vera.Org and on Twitter, and read more interviews in the Portraits of Leadership series.

Hyperakt is a purpose-driven design and innovation studio that elevates human dignity and ignites curiosity. We believe in design’s power to build a future filled with courage, optimism, and honesty.

Are you a leader in the nonprofit, cultural, or design space? Want to share your perspective on confronting COVID-19? Please fill out this Google Form.

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Hyperakt crafts transformative brands and digital storytelling experiences for clear-eyed champions of social justice and creativity.

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